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Friday, March 6, 2015

"The chimney sweeper" by William Blake.- Songs of Innocence

The Chimney Sweeper is the title of two poems, the second one being an extension of the first. Written by poet William Blake, the poems follow the miserable lives of poor children, who suffer through the inhumane task of sweeping chimneys. The poems were published in "Songs Of Innocence", and "Songs of Experience".

Songs of Innocence
  The Chimney Sweeper, Songs of Innocence shows us the life of a young sweep, who still has hope within him for a better life. Having being sold while he was quite young, the innocent child is still gullible, and believes the words of the cruel society. Blake has mentioned that the child was sold when he could "scarcely cry weep!weep!'. This subtle line, can be thought of as a pun on the word "sweep", as young children find the letter 's' hard to pronounce. The protagonist remains unnamed in both poems, and the only named character in "songs of innocence" is 'Tom Dacre'. In the second stanza of the poem the protagonist is shown consoling Tom, who was crying over the loss of his beautiful hair. Tom's hair " curled like a lamb's back" is the only simile found in the poem. " Hush Tom, never mind it, for when your head's bare, you know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair". This line seems to prove that through his short life, the protagonist has experienced such things that have wizened him far too much for his age.
 Filled with vivid imagery the poem allows the reader to experience the life of the unfortunate children,though the poet has only shown us snippets of the sweeps' lives . Most of the lines of the poem have both a literal and a metaphoric meaning, which is one of the reasons why the poem is so complex.
 This melancholy poem has various themes, each of which have brought me into a state of reflection. The poem plays host to the theme of the insensitivity of society, as through the poem the upper class are portrayed as unkind. While Tom was dreaming he had a sight of "thousands of sweepers". Any society that would allow thousands of young children to sacrifice their innocence and suffer through inhumane tasks such as sweeping chimneys, surely must be insensitive.
     The second theme is also portrayed in Tom's dream. Religious Hypocrisy is shown, when Tom is led to believe that if he finished his work, and behaved well, he'd have an unlimited amount of joy. This dream shows that the sweeps' caretakers fed them with religious lies, leading the naive children to believe that good behaviour, and hard work in such harsh conditions would mean unlimited joy.
  This poem has brought the insensitivity of society towards children to a greater level of awareness, and is a must read for all those who love poetry. A melancholy and sad poem, it has touched my heart, and hopefully that of all it's readers.
- Poetic Fanatic


  1. This is a great commentary on poems that carry a lot of messages from one of the greatest English poets. I had read these quite a while ago, so I looked up to refresh my memory, and found that Allen Ginsberg had composed music for these poems and made an album, because he believed that these poems were meant to be sung. That would be good to hear! Carry on reading.

  2. Dear Tilak Uncle,

    I will definitely listen to the songs. Thank you for the recommendation and encouragement.

    Poetic Fanatic


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