“The Echoing Green” by William Blake deals mainly with themes of life and death, and the inevitable passing of time. The poem depicts the blissful play of young children on the “echoing green,” as well as the memories of the old people watching as they recall their days of play. Then, the sun sets, and the description of the green as “echoing” changes to the “darkening green,” indicating the inevitability of death, but not exactly the ending of life – the repetition used in the poem points to a cyclical way of reading that imitates the cyclical nature of life and death. This repeating of the title phrase, as well as the very simple yet effective rhyme scheme, lets the reader know that there is more to the poem than just the juxtaposition of the old and new generation. Furthermore, the choice to describe the “green” as “echoing” reinforces the imagery of life and memories indefinitely cycling through the same place, never ending.
The poem uses one day, one cycle of the sun moving across the sky, to describe a lifetime. The end of the play on the field is inevitable, yes, but Blake sees death as a natural part of life, one that is as demanding as sleep and as peaceful as night. In the last stanza of “The Echoing Green,” he states, “The sun does descend, And our sports have an end. Round the laps of their mother/Many sisters and brothers, Like birds in their nest, Are ready for rest/And sport no more seen/on the darkening green.” The “darkening” of the green is a peaceful deviation from the other endings of the stanzas, the word “seen” is still rhymed with “green,” it’s just this one word that has been changed. The ending is family focused as well, and the lines about reuniting with mothers could be referencing seeing loved ones who have already passed on when you yourself also do so. The imagery of birds in a nest has comforting connotations as well, suggesting that death is not seen as a futile battle against a great enemy, but rather simply as a phase of life, as illustrated by the descriptions of different generations having similar experiences.