As a Romantic poet, Blake loved nature and thought that experiencing it was vital to a child's growth and happiness. In this poem, his narrator critiques the act of forcing a child to sit in a schoolroom when his soul would be better nurtured where "the birds sing on every tree." He especially criticizes subjecting a child to rote school learning on a summer day.
In the first half of the poem, we experience the world through a young boy's eyes. He wakes to the birds' songs in stanza one and walks to school listening to the skylark sing, finding it "sweet company."
In stanzas two and three, the boy laments being in school. He describes himself as "sighing," "drooping," and "anxious."
In the fourth, fifth, and sixth stanzas, the narrator addresses parents everywhere and asks how a child can thrive if he is forced to sit in classroom on a beautiful summer day. He admonishes parents and advises them to allow their children some freedom and joy during childhood. He believes this is important so that the young ones, "tender plants," will have happy memories to fall back on "to bless their mellowing years" when unhappy times—"the blasts of winter"—inevitably come.
He attempts to raise our sympathy and compassion for the plight of young children. This is typical of Romanticism, which celebrated the innocence of childhood and tried to reach people through their emotions.