Monday, January 3, 2011

"The Chimney Sweeper" Songs of Innocence vs. Songs of Experience

In  William Blake’s poem “The Chimeny Sweeper” Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience both show how the living, working, and general care of chimney sweepers was often over looked and not taken into consideration.  Most of the time, in this society the chimney sweepers were looked down upon, as if they were the soot they swept up. They would sleep in cold cellars in the soot that had just been swept, they were fed poorly, and their health was not a big deal to their masters. The chimney sweepers would clean chimneys in little to no clothing so that they would not have to be replaced. The children were hardly ever bathed. Most of the children that swept chimneys had health problems. The hard work of chimney sweeping would ruin their ankles and spines leaving them deformed looking, something society looked down upon. The chimney sweeper would die at a young age, either from the fire itself or from inhaling the smoke and it ruining their lungs.
In Songs of Innocence there are two boys, the narrator and Tom Dacre.  Tom is the more innocent of the two boys. This is shown when his curls are cut off he acts devastated and begins to cry. Then the speaker who is a little bit older says that’s it’s not a big deal because now the soot can’t dirty them. The speaker feels that it’s his duty to make the little boy feel as if he is safe; he has a sense of responsibility to him. Next in the poem little Tom Dacre has a dream about all the other chimney sweepers being locked up in black coffins, and an angel setting them free. In the dream, all the boys run off white, free of their soot and their baggage. At the end the angel tells Tom that if he was a good boy he would have God for his father and never want joy. This dream is a symbol of hope for Tom. It is interpreted that as long as he is obedient he will have a good after life. What Tom does not realize is that by his being obedient he is killing himself faster.
In Songs of Experience the message is a little clearer. The narrator knows that he is a victim. In the poem it says he is “clothed in clothes of death” meaning he knows he has an early death coming and that he is not welcome in society.  His parents think they have done nothing wrong by selling him to the chimney sweeper because he seems happy.  The chimney sweeper understands that he must deal with what was given to him even if it makes his life difficult. He knows that once he dies he will have a better life waiting for him.

To read "The Chimney Sweeper" Songs of Innocence
To read the "The Chimney Sweeper"  Songs of Experence

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