When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;
When the meadows laugh with lively green,
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene,
When Mary and Susan and Emily
With their sweet round mouths sing ``Ha, Ha, He!''
When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread,
Come live & be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of ``Ha, Ha, He!''
Commentary by Jeff Gillett
This is one of several poems in the collection that celebrate nature with no awareness of its darker side. In this poem, everything in the natural world seems to be laughing along with the children as they play: the 'green woods', the 'dimpling stream', the 'air', the 'green hill', the 'meadows', the 'grasshopper' and the 'painted birds' all join in the laughter, and the whole situation is described as a 'merry scene'. The first mention of any human merriment is the reference to 'Mary and Susan and Emily / With their sweet round mouths...'
However, the whole poem consists of a series of adverbial clauses leading up to the final couplet, which is an invitation:
'Come live & be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of "Ha, Ha, He!"'
This is somewhat reminiscent of the more erotic invitation of Christopher Marlowe's Passionate Shepherd to his Mistress to
'Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove.'
Blake's poem is full of exuberance and delight which need refer to nothing more than the ‘innocent play’ of children, and there is nothing in the poem that makes it out of place in a book of poems for children. However, Blake’s view of sexuality as essentially innocent and needlessly proscribed by an authoritarian Church with an authoritarian view of God makes it perfectly possible to see the poem in a more erotic context without compromising its placing in the Songs of Innocence.
From this perspective, the sensuality of 'sweet round mouths' and the invitation to 'Come live & be merry and join with me' in singing along with a chorus in which the whole of nature seems to be laughing contribute easily to a picture of a world turned topsy-turvy by being in love.