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The Chimney Sweeper | Analysis

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 981 words Published: 16th May 2017

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William Blake was a famous writer of the Romantic Age which took place in 1832. William Blake wrote two poems called “The Chimney Sweeper.” The first poem had to do with innocence. The second Chimney Sweeper poem by William Blake had to do with experience. Even though both poems have the same title doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the same. They have a few things in common, but also have a plethora of items that are different. In both poems called “The Chimney Sweeper”, they share similarities and differences between narration, rhyme scheme, tone, and theme. Blake also shows how both poems are influenced Romantically, he gives the reader a visual and represents many symbols that are used in today’s society.

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As far as rhyme scheme, they both have words that rhyme at the end of each line and stanza. The boy says “When my mother dies I was very young, and my father sold me while yet my tongue.” (lines 1-2 p. 85) In songs of experience, Blake writes “A little black thing among the snow Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!” (lines 1-2 p90)

Both poems are also expressed romantically in a few ways. In the Romantic days, writers felt there was a new literature being birthed. The poetry had to do a lot with humanity and nature. Poets tended toward emotion and child like perspective. Poets also showed much regard for the natural scenes and used words like “child”, “imagination”, and nature” because they thought they were popular. (Mellown p. 1)

In Songs of Innocence the young boy tells his story. The boy is about six or seven years old. Much of the imaginative power of the poem comes from the tension between the child’s naiveté and the subtlety of Blake’s own vision. (Mellown p.1)

In the first stanza, he talks about his way of life. He talks about how his mother dies. He was sold as an apprentice by his father. His present life revolves around working, calling through the streets for more work, and at the end of the day sleeping on soot, a realistic detail since the boys did indeed make their beds on bags of soot they had swept from the chimneys. (Mellown p.1)

The second stanza introduces a young boy named Tom Dacre, who comes to join the workers and is initiated into his new life by a haircut. Tom cries as he gets his hair cut off, but the speaker makes him feel better by saying “Hush, Tom! Never mind it, for when your head’s bare, you know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair” (lines 6-7 p. 85). What that means is all of the dirt from sweeping chimneys won’t get in his hair. Tom takes the advice and goes to sleep happily. (Mellown p. 2)

The next three stanzas give the substance of the dream. Tom dreams that thousands of sweepers locked in coffins are released by an angel. Suddenly, they find themselves in a pastoral landscape where, freed from their burdens, they bathe in a river and then rise up to the clouds. There, the angel tells Tom, “if he’d be a good boy, / He’d have God for his father & never want joy.” The dream is an obvious instance of wish fulfillment, and its pathos rests on the fat that while it reveals the child’s longing to escape, the opening and closing of the poem make it clear that his only ways of escape are dreams and death. (Mellown p. 2) What this means for Tom is that maybe when he is dreaming he can escape what he goes thorough in life and just be happy.

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The last quatrain opens with a brutal contrast. Having dreamed of playing in the sun, Tom awakes, and the sweepers begin their day’s work, a day to be spent in the total darkness of the cramped chimneys. Yet, restored by his dream, Tom is happy, and the poem ends with the pious moral, akin to the angel’s speech, “So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” (Mellown p. 2) So he goes through the rest of his life knowing that heaven was in his future as long as he was good.

In “The Chimney Sweeper”, songs of experience, Blake talks about some of the things a little black boy goes through. Using the same rhyme scheme as songs of innocence he says “A little black thing among the snow crying weep, weep in notes of woe! Where are thy father and mother? Say? They are both gone up to the church to pray.” (lines 1-4 p. 90)

In the next stanza Blake describes how his parents are at church praying for him because he is so happy on the outside but not showing his true pain. He sings and dances because he is happy and his parents think that everything is ok and no damage has been done. He says “And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King, who make up a heaven of our misery.” (lines 11-12 p.90) Blake could have possibly used a bit of sarcasm in songs of experience.

In songs of innocence some themes and symbols were the bags, abandoned in the dream and picked up again with the brushes the next morning. This says that the terrible burden of the child’s life, which is the good indicates the corruption of a society that uses and abuses him. The coffins are like a symbol of death. They represent the chimneys that he sweeps and the actual death to which he will soon come. In contrast, the sun, river, and plain express the joys that should be natural to childhood, which is also a symbol of the way nature is appreciated in the romantic age. Yet, even symbols associated with happiness intensify the harsh facts of existence. The bright key recalls imprisonment; the harmony of the leaping boys emphasizes their isolation in the chimneys; and the lamb, whose curling fleece Tom’s hair resembles, is often, as is the sweeper, a helpless victim. (Mellown p. 2)


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