Monday, January 3, 2011

"The Chimney Sweeper" (Innocence) by William Blake

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved: so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet; and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, - 
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. 

The innocent version of William Blake's "The Chimney Sweeper" details the harsh world of young English boys who became chimney sweepers before ever having a chance at living they're childhood or spending time in the blissful state of innocence. The narrator is still a new boy who maintains his faith of the world around him, emanating his innocence, and he shows this to a newer boy named Tom through simple kindness when he says,” ‘Hush, Tom! Never mind it, for when your head's bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair'"(Blake 2nd stanza, 4th line).  Later on when Tom has a dark dream of being trapped by this sin and soot, he and the other sweepers are released by an angel, letting them all go free. The next morning Tom had a calm, faithful state of mind. He had no fear of death or what was to come, due to his innocence,” Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm; So if all do their duty they need not fear harm" (Blake 5th stanza, 4th line). Tom and the narrator's innocence were what gave them faith in their dreadful situation, pushing them on to wake up the next day and so on, because their hope and faith would not fail them. Blake's importance in the state of innocence is shown through this simple poem by merely giving examples of its affects into the lives of mankind. Rather than the other (experienced) version of the chimney sweeper, where sin and reason overpower faith in the narrator's mind; leading him into a downfall of negativity and sin. This creates more space from faith and God for the boy and those who listen to him. As the innocence that Tom and the narrator portray influentially alter their everyday lives, its importance becomes recognizably significant compared to the sinful, experienced state of mind, shown in the experienced version of the chimney sweeper. The reason for using the example of chimney boys in this poem was due to the fact that children start with innocence and are corrupted throughout life into experienced sin and reason, whether it be by society, education, parenting, or a bad experience. For these boys to still maintain that innocence and faith through this trying time, that is the goal of Blake’s work.

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