The nature also seems to join in with their joy as the sun shines with sheer brilliance over the playing children. The azure sky also seems to be smiling at the joy of these innocent children. The whole atmosphere further seems drunk with high-spirited fervor; the church bells add their sonorous chimes to this festive atmosphere. The poet symbolizes the innocence and delicacy of children with the birds. The birds are happy and they sing their heart out. The mellifluous chirping and singing of these feathered friends represents the joys and blessings of our lives. The beautiful songbirds like the delicate thrush and the sweet sounding skylark create a marvelous fusion of their cute chirping with the sonorous bell chimes.
From this point the poem shows a subtle recession in the mood as the focus eases on to the old people sitting under the oak tree and draw a strange sort of pleasure from the games and the frivolous activities of the children. The old oak tree also symbolizes a rather enigmatic entity of existence- time. The old oak tree represents the all-pervasive time that draws a calming balance between the contrasting old age and the joyous childhood. The old people sitting under the cool shades of the old oak tree show a rather reflective attitude as they brood over the time of their own childhood. For some time they forget their own worries and pains which they have realized with the passage of time.
This shows that the children are a blessing and they have the ability to make ones life happy. The old people enjoy the children’s sports. The old folks are also laughing at the simplicity and innocence of the children. The children are ignorant about the hardships and the difficulties in the life ahead. The older generation has gone through the ups and downs of life and can actually understand the sweetness of the time of childhood, as that is a time that they have lost. In fact they are ready for their eternal rest in the womb of Mother Nature. Thus the old people are absorbed in the games of the children and recall their own childhood and youth – the golden period of life.
As W B Yeats said,
‘ The days of the youth are the days of our glory.’
But this joy of the old people is mixed with a subtle somberness as they realize the sad fact that after all these children will also be swept with the current of time and then one day they will take their place under the shade of the oak tree, and a new generation will take their place. And so the rise and fall will go on and on. The poet here is underlining a very resonant fact of life i.e. the inevitability of death.
The last stanza is laden with a rather pathetic mood. It indicates the end of life. The children are tired and they have stopped playing. This is a sign of old age- the tiring of the children symbolizes the old age, when man becomes old and heads towards his eventual demise. Moreover a sad mood prevails over him as he realizes the approaching death. So the harbinger of death is symbolized by the evening as the evening shadows creep on the green announcing the arrival of night-death. The green takes on an unpleasant and sordid look. The game ends! So does the life. The children return to their homes to rest. The home symbolizes the grave and the rest is the eternal rest.
Thus the poem is a splendid pen picture of joys of child hood and their eventual fading away into eternity. Blake has further laid stress on the potent entity called ‘change’. The poet has through useful symbol of oak tree, old people, evening etc has discussed the mechanics, which act as a fulcrum in moving the paddles of life. The poet has showed superb mastery as he changes the mood of the poem along with the progression of the poem. The poem is in fact a very fine presentation of the philosophy of life resting on the hinges of the magnificent time.
‘And sport no more seen
On the darkening green.’