Blake's the Chimney Sweeper William Term Paper

Total Length: 1096 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 2

Page 1 of 4

The poem strikes a continual contrast between light and dark, like the natural, naked whiteness of Tom's hair, and the boy's bodies in heaven, "naked and white," with all of the unnecessary baggage of their labor "left behind."

The poem also contrasts the ease of "sporting in the wind" rather than going into the pits of hellish, dark hot chimneys that is won if the boys are good and do their duty. But this dream is a hope easily accepted and swallowed by children, yet paradise and its reward seems ironically bestowed, unrealistic in its contrast with reality, and ultimately the poet does not seem as confident as the speaker that "Tom, if he'd be a good boy, / He'd have God for his father, and never want joy...and "if all do their duty they need not fear harm." The boys have no comfort other than the hope, perhaps false hope of heaven, just like they are supposed to take comfort having their light, fine childhood hair cut off so they can better labor in the darkness, for other's comfort and warmth, as they work in the cold.

The reference to God as a father and duty sound like cliches, and the word choice seems deliberate to illustrate the false lies these children are told, to comfort them as they have experienced miserable loss of childhood. They are too innocent to really understand the harm that has been done to them, and the simplicity of the language, the fact that these children are sold before they can barely speak, much less be educated in injustice, makes the entire poem deeply ironic, despite its superficially hopeful ending.
In case the reader does not know the superficiality of this hope, one only need contrast the poem from "Songs of Innocence" with "The Chimney Sweeper" from "Songs of Experience," which ends: "Because I was happy upon the heath,/and smil'd among the winters snow:/They clothed me in the clothes of death,/and taught me to sing the notes of woe./and because I am happy, & dance & sing,/They think they have done me no injury:/and are gone to praise God & his Priest & King / Who make up a heaven of our misery."

The children's parents from "Songs of Experience" sing in church, even though the child's parents of the "Song of Innocence" have left the child. Blake implies with this contrast that the happy singing parents are all of 'us,' assuming that because the children we see in the streets are poor and do not complain, that we can call ourselves good Christians. Religion is a false comfort, not just for the children, but also for the individuals who benefit from the child's labors. The "Song of Experience" about "The Chimney Sweeper" lacks the simple vocabulary and playful tone of the innocent song, as it reveals the poet's true intent in writing both poems in a very explicit fashion.

Works Cited

Blake, William. "The Chimney Sweeper." Songs of Innocence. 1789. 28 Sept 2007. http://www.online-literature.com/blake/628/

Blake, William. "The Chimney Sweeper." Songs of Experience. 1794. 28 Sept 2007. http://165.29.91.7/classes/humanities/britlit/97-98/blake/POEMS.htm.....

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