William Blake – The Echoing Green

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This poem is in a very different category to most other cricket verse of the eighteen century. William Blake is a writer of considerable stature, his Songs of Innocence (published 1789), from which this poem is taken, is among the classics of the early Romantic Period.

While cricket is not mentioned specifically, the second of Blake’s illustrations includes a youth holding a shoulderless cricket bat, showing that the game was included in the sports that were being enjoyed by the youths on the village green. The poem is deeply evocative of childhood summer days, the security of loving families and communities and the joy of play. The poem though has an elegiac tone, mentioning the fleeting nature of youth and the onset of old age which catches up with us all, much as the sun sets at the end of the day.

The text reads as follows:

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring.
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing louder around,
To the bells’ cheerful sound. 
While our sports shall be seen
On the Echoing Green.
Old John, with white hair 
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk, 
They laugh at our play, 
And soon they all say.
‘Such, such were the joys. 
When we all girls & boys, 
In our youth-time were seen, 
On the Echoing Green.’
Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end: 
Round the laps of their mothers, 
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen,
On the darkening Green.