The Birds Summary and Analysis by William Blake


 

About William Blake: William Blake was born in the year 1757 in Soho, London. He started writing poetry at the early age of 12. Blake’s work went largely unappreciated during his lifetime due to his idiosyncratic views. But posthumously, he was critically acclaimed and considered to have inspired a generation of poetry.  He published his first printed work, Poetical Sketches in 1783. His most notable works are Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, published in 1789 and 1794 respectively. A poet, painter, and printmaker, William Blake died in the year 1827 of natural causes.

About The Birds: The Birds is a poem in Notebook 1800 of William Blake. The notebook is now known as the ‘The Rossetti Manuscript’ after Dante Gabriel Rossetti who found the notebook in The British Museum and bought it and later published it. It is a simple poem of two lovers meeting after a period of absence.

Setting of the poem: The poem is set in two places. The major part is in the forest where the male dwells and the second setting is a lonely tree, presumably away from the forest, where the female dwells.

Poetic Devices

Stanza: The poem has five stanzas of four lines each.    

Rhyme: Consecutive lines’ end words in each stanza rhyme with each other. Some are perfect rhymes like ‘me’ and ‘thee’, ‘fly’ and ‘high’, while some others are incomplete or partially rhyming like ‘tear’ and ‘bear’, ‘wood’ and ‘loud’.

Personification: The birds are personified by giving them a human speech. Morning is personified by saying it drinks tears in stanza 2. In the same stanza, it is said that evening winds bear the female bird’s sorrow. It is also used in the last line of stanza 3 when the male says that night hears his sorrow.

Allusion: The birds were once together but at the beginning of the poem they are separated. This is not mentioned explicitly anywhere and is understood by the conversation of the birds.

Imagery: Some imagery is used in the last stanza while describing the male bird’s nest. We see a nest high on a tree between leaves and fruits.

Metaphor: ‘Wings of joy’ in line 1 of stanza 5 is a metaphor for saying that the birds will fly happily.

Apostrophe: Apostrophe in poetry is addressing an absent person, an abstract idea or a thing. Here apostrophes occur in the starting four stanzas. The male and female birds address each other by using the exclamation ‘O’. This shows that the two birds were separated during these stanzas.

Summary of the poem The Bird by William Blake

The male bird asks of his love, the female bird, where, in which grove, did she build her nest. The female bird replies that it built it upon a lonely tree and that it mourns for the male bird every morning and evening. To this, the male birds say that it too mourned for the female bird every day. The female bird becomes happy on hearing this. The male bird tells the female bird to come with him to his nest where they can live happily and calmly from now on.

Analysis of the poem The Bird by William Blake

The poem is in a conversational style. The conversation takes place between two birds, one male, and a female. They were once together and were happy, but since then they had separated. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the poem but the gist is understood by the conversations. ‘I mourn for thee,’ says the female bird in the second stanza implying that she knew the male bird earlier. Also, it can be understood that they were happy before they separated because mourning is done for beloved ones. Thus, before some event which parted them, the two birds were together. This is an allusion.

The poem starts with the male bird calling out to the female bird. It calls the female bird the Fair One and Love implying that the feelings of the male bird remained even after separation. He asks her where she built her charming nest and in which grove. He also calls her the pride of every field. This shows the extent of the love of the male bird and how strongly he feels for her.

In the second stanza, the female bird replies that she stood on a lonely tree and there she lived and mourned for him. This shows that the female birds feeling were in sync with the male’s. ‘Morning drinks my silent tear’; the bird means to say that she silently cried for the male every morning. Similarly, she felt sorrow in the evening. The female bird uses personification in saying that the morning drinks and evening winds bear.

In the third stanza, the male bird replies back along the same lines. He begins by calling the female, ‘summer’s harmony’. Summer is a time of warmth and joy. By calling her summer’s harmony, the male is saying that she gives him happiness. He says that he too mourned for her ‘along’ the wood.

Now this here gives the idea that the birds’ separation was due to one of them being lost. The male mourning along the wood means that he was searching for the female bird in the forest. But the female was on a lonely tree and hence, could not be found by the male.

The male bird says that he cried out the sorrow he felt, loudly in the night. To this, the female asks the male somewhat unbelievingly if he truly longs for her. She asks him if she was so sweet to him. But it is not really a question so much as it is a sudden realization, as the female does not wait for an answer and says that her sorrow ended there. She calls the male her lover and her friend.

The male becomes happy on hearing this. He tells the female bird that they will fly on ‘wings of joy’, meaning that they will fly happily, to the male bird’s nest on a high branch. There they will truly lose their sorrow and make a calm living between leaves and flowers and fruit.

There is some imagery involved in the last stanza. We see a nest on a high branch of a tree, hidden among green leaves and surrounded by sweet fruits or flowers. Each stanza in the poem starts with ‘He’ or ‘She’ indicating which bird it was that was speaking in that stanza. Personification is used in the case of birds here, giving them the human characteristic of speech.

The poem is a transition from sorrow to joy, of separation to reconciliation. The reason behind the separation is never given in the poem, and it was meant to be so. The poem is meant to be a light read, giving the reader some calm and joy at its end. And it stays true to this. Neither the tone nor the story goes especially sorrowful and remains light throughout.

Central Idea of the poem: There is no deep meaning hidden in the poem. One may of course search for it and may get some interpretation, but in essence, the poem is meant to be a sorrowful tale between two separated lovers and how they become one again.

Tone of the poem: The tone at the beginning of the poem is full of longing and sorrow. Both the birds want each other and they mourn of their separation. This changes when the male bird replies that his feelings were same as the female’s; upon which the tone takes a more hopeful characteristic. The poem ends with the tone becoming joyous.

Conclusion: William Blake tells a light, heart-warming story in this poem wherein two lovers find each other after a sorrowful separation.

Abhishek is a marketing research and social media consultant who developed a keen interest in blogging. He can be contacted at dey.abhishek99@gmail.com

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