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Blake – Songs of Innocence and Experience: the Chimney Sweeper

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William Blake: a man with ideas far ahead of his time, a dreamer, and had true poetic talent. Blake was an engraver, who wrote two groups of corresponding poems, namely The Songs of Experience, and The Songs of Innocence. Songs of Innocence was written originally as poems for children, but was later paired up with The Songs of Experience, which he wrote to highlight what he felt were society’s most prominent problems. This essay will be focusing on ‘The Chimney Sweeper.

’ Firstly, I’ll look at The Chimney Sweeper from Innocence.

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The poem uses the ‘A A B B’ rhyming scheme, i. e. young, tongue, weep, sleep. This makes the poem sound good when it’s read aloud. It also flows better. This pattern continues throughout. The poem is about a chimney sweep who’s had a hard time, first having lost his mother, and then was sold by his father. This could have been aimed at the way children were treated in his time, as they were bought and sold like animals.

Blake had even seen a young boy chained to a wall. Later in the poem, the chimney sweeps are saved by an angel, who ‘opens the coffins. The reference to coffins meant was linked to the deaths of chimney sweeps, and the death involved in their work. Also, where it says ‘all their bags left behind’ that means the boys leave their worries behind. The fourth and fifth verses are about going to heaven, and was meant to teach the children that at the end of life’s strugles, there’d be safety with God. Although Blake didn’t like The Church, he did believe in God, and taught the belief of God in many of his poems.

In the last verse, Tom (the boy mentioned earlier on) awakes, and it turns out that going to heaven was a dream, however, the poem teaches you that as long as you do your duty, you’ll make it to heaven. The Songs of Experience version of the poem follows the same rhyme scheme, and so is almost an exploration and extention of the last poem. The poem starts in much the same way, with the child crying, and his parents having left to the church. The boy in this poem is ‘clothed in the clothes of death,’ perhaps meaning he’s been made a chimney sweep, and knows his fate.

His parents are at the church to praise God, but the boy believes that God just creates misery for them, and his parents are blind to follow him. This could be a shot at The Church, which at the time was very corrupt, and was in fact ‘unchristian. ’ The first poem is much longer, meaning that Blake had more to say on that particular subject. The poem from experience is much shorter, because he’s only making a small point about the hell of a heaven God had created.

Both poems have the same rhyme scheme, so it’s like one is a continuation of the other, and that they’re both different sides of exactly the same thing, one being for The Church, promising a happy place to go after death, and banishing all worries, and the other saying that there is no hope, and that we’ll be left on our own, with no heaven. The poems focus on a problem which Blake felt was a very important one. Blake believed that children were deprived of their childhood, by being forced into labour early, and were shunned by those with a ‘seen and not heard’ attitude.

These children were little better than slaves, as they were traded and abused. Blake wanted children to enjoy what time they had as kids, and felt it wrong that such an important time in their lives was held back from them. The Chimney Sweeper (experience) supports this by showing that the child was crying in the snow, having been abandoned, and being forced to don the clothes of death (perhaps meaning the attire of a chimney sweep, so being forced into that most horrible of careers. ) The second problem Blake attacks with the poems is the idea that The Church is heavily corrupted.

He highlights this especially in The Chimney Sweeper (experience) by showing that two church-goers just leave their child in the bleak coldness of the snow, and the boy seems to have the idea of heaven ruined for him, and his faith in God completely lost. ‘Who make up a heaven of our misery. ’ This clearly shows that the boy believes that God has created a miserable existance for everyone, and is not to be trusted. In conclusion, The poems were written to get the idea across that the way children were treated was wrong, and that they should be properly cared for, as they are only children. The poems also feature a heavy Christian input.

Cite this Blake – Songs of Innocence and Experience: the Chimney Sweeper

Blake – Songs of Innocence and Experience: the Chimney Sweeper. (2018, Feb 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/blake-songs-of-innocence-and-experience-the-chimney-sweeper/

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