In this direct and uncluttered narrative poem, the speaker conveys an experience that he had while traveling in a horse-drawn coach. Charles Lamb uses simple diction that makes the narrative direct and easy to understand.
The first stanza describes the setting. The speaker tells us that he was on a journey by stagecoach when he noticed that one of his fellow passengers, a girl, was not much interested in the sights that they were passing. He assumed that she was deeply thinking about something a child might imagine.
Stanza two tells us that the speaker felt compelled to inquire about the child's lack of interest in the passing scenery and, showing her the greatest courtesy, he first complimented her and then requested that she turn her "pretty eyes" to see what she was missing. The stanza ends with the beginning of the girl's reply.
Stanza three begins with the girl's very direct and sincere response that she could not enjoy the view because she was blind. The next two lines describe the speaker's surprised response. He declares that her reply was the saddest thing that he had ever heard. What probably shocked the listener was that her answer was so matter-of-fact. The poem does not convey a hint of sadness or regret in what she says. The last line in the stanza introduces the girl's mother's response to his query and her daughter's reply.
In stanza four, the girl's mother commences informing the speaker about how she discovered that her child was blind. She spoke about how she once, on a bright and sunny day, scolded her daughter, as is a mother's wont, for not completing her needlework.
The final stanza reveals the fact that the girl did not realize that she was blind. She told her mother that she would complete her work during daytime. She believed that it was night and that she could not, therefore, see what she was doing. The mother states, in the final two lines of the poem, that when her daughter spoke these words the sun was shining brightly on her and yet her eyes could not observe the light.
The poem has a poignant tone which is either offset or enhanced by the sheer simplicity of its structure, depending on one's point of view. The poem consists of five quatrains, each dealing with a specific aspect of the narrator's conversation during a particular part of his journey. The language is uncluttered and straightforward. The effortless and unsentimental diction adds to the dramatic impact this unlikely discovery must have had on the narrator. Its implications for the reader must surely be just as substantial.