The poem Laughing Song by William Blake (from Songs of Innocence) is a depiction of an ideal world. It is one of his few poems which portray nature with rich and pleasant imagery. In this poem, the poet describes the merry-making natural things and urges the people (particularly the Romantics) to join him in singing songs in the appreciation of nature’s beauty.
The poem has been divided into three stanzas having four lines each and like most of the other poems of Blake, the rhyme scheme of Laughing Song is AABB. The poem has been composed in a way that one can sing it.
Laughing Song Summary
The poem begins with a description of beautiful things in nature. He urges the people to sing the sweet chorus of “Ha, ha, he” (he says this at the end of the poem) at a time which he describes throughout the poem. The stanzas remain incomplete and the meaning is understood only in the end.
In order to make the meaning clear, I have brought the last line’s meaning at the beginning of each stanza. So, according to the poet, all the people should join the poet in merry-making and singing when the green woods i.e. forests laugh with the voice of joy, i.e. when the forests are green (in spring) and their leaves make soothing and calming voices when the air passes through them.
Next, he says that it will be the time when the dimpling stream runs laughing by. Dimple is a small depression which appears on the cheeks of some of the people when they smile or laugh (even I have dimples, which according to my friends make me look cute when I smile 😊).
So the dimple in a poetic sense would be the waves which keep moving across the streams. These waves make joyful sounds which makes them attractive to ears. Now, these dimpling or smiling streams and rivers pass by the green forest.
Next, it is the time when the air does laugh with our merry wit. During the summertime, the air also makes audible sounds while crossing the rivers and forests. The poet says that the air is also laughing with them (poet and the other Nature-lovers).
In the final line, the poet says that the green hill laughs with the noise of it. Near the forest and the stream, there is a hill full of green trees. When the merry-making air strikes it, the hill also seems to be laughing.
In the next stanza. the poet continues describing the nature, According to him, it is the time when the meadows laugh with lively green. Meadows are the grounds with green grass and very less or no plants. For the poet, the green meadows seem to be laughing because of their bright green colour.
In the meadows, there are grasshoppers which laugh in the merry scene i.e. in the laughing and merry-making meadows, the grasshoppers which also make laughing sounds. It is the time when Mary and Susan and Emily with their sweet round mouths sing “Ha, ha, he!”.
According to Genius, Mary and Susan and Emily depict common ladies. If it is the case, the line suggests that common women are also the part of nature. Their beauty, depicted by sweet round mouths and their voice also contributes to the beauty of nature. In those green meadows, common ladies are also enjoying and singing.
The poet says that it is the time when the painted birds laugh in the shade. Painted birds mean the bright coloured birds which are painted (by someone, a direct sign of poet’s belief in God). Shade here either refers to the shade of green trees or their nests in those trees.
Near the birds which are on the trees, is the table of the poet with cherries and nuts spread on it i.e. the poet is sitting in the middle of merry-making nature with the natural fruits. He offers other to come, live and be merry.
They should join him to sing the sweet chorus of “Ha, ha, he!”. “Ha, ha, he!” is chorus because along with the poet there is nature which is singing and laughing. The last word is “he” not “ha” to make the rhyme. The poem ends in merry-making. It can also be considered as an invitation of Romantic Poet to those living in urban areas.