An in Depth View of Blakes "The Chimney Sweeper" Poem. William Blakes poems "The Chimney Sweeper Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience". cover social and political issues that were a problem for his society. In the poem "Songs of Innocence"
the narrator a little boy does not feel the injustice his family and his society has put upon him. In contrast the narrator and little boy from the poem "Songs of Experience" realizes what kind of world he lives in and blames the people and institutions that abandoned him where he is. Since the two poems contrast each other so well it lets the reader decide which one is right or that either of them are.
William Blake expresses his discontent with society and its moral values in both of his poems "Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience". They bring to light the sweepers working conditions, their treatment, and their living conditions in the major cities across Europe. The conditions of the chimney sweeps were sentenced to work were appalling after the long day of work in chimneys that were no more than 9 inches wide these children were forced sleep on the bags of tools that they worked with. Over time the stress and soot would build up, most of the sweeps died at a young age due to respiratory problems and others died of smoke inhalation of lit fires beneath them.But Blake wasn't the only one to protest these terrible conditions he and many other protested the way these kids were treated and in 1788 there was a push pass a bill to improve the treatment and minimum age of the young chimney sweepers.
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In Songs of Innocence Blake uses the chimney sweeps to represent the innocence in society that is abused and controlled by those who have none just like how the children who are turned into chimney sweeps are controlled by the adults who tell them to go down the chimneys. The narrator of the poem is Tom one of the eldest of the chimney sweeps just like the other children he still has his innocence and so he does not realize that he is being exploited for cheap labor. Tom whose mother died was originally sold by his father at a very young age, shown in these lines "And my father sold me while my tongue could scarcely cry' weep weep weep weep!" (2-3). The poem continues on to a point when Tom has a dream that shows the chimney sweeps locked up in coffins of black and an angel comes to set them free with a golden key. The coffins of black are symbolic of the soot that the chimney sweeps were constantly covered in day and night and the living conditions that they were subjected to. As for the angel with the golden key symbolizes that if the young boys believed in God another happier life will be awaiting them leaving behind all of the soot and bags of tools which symbolize the oppression they were under. Another way to look at the poem is that the coffins of black are their actual deaths and the only escape was to die and to go on to an afterlife. Tom is then given hope by the angel "if he'd be a good boy, he'd have God for his father and never want joy" (19-20). The poem then ends with Tom thinking if he does a good job everything will be fine. This last thought show how innocent Tom and the other chimney sweeps are because they can't even tell that they are the victim.
In "Songs of Experience, the child who is the victim understands and realises that he is the victim telling a man who was watching the "little black thing"(1) how it happened. Unlike the "Songs of Innocence" the child in the poem has both of his parents but they are ignorant of him and they leave him outside while they went inside the church to pray because chimney sweeps were not allowed in to the church of england (Nurmi 18). The child then goes on to say that his parents sold him to the chimney sweeps because they thought he was happy, but they were really putting him "in clothes of death"(7) this refers to the problems of being a chimney sweep such as being a social outcast and the high chance of death due to the terrible working conditions. However his parent are ignorant of what they have sentenced the child to. "gone to praise God and his priest and king"(11). This is a criticism by Blake of the parents who would sell their child to the chimney sweeps and of the church of england who allowed the irresponsible treatment of the children.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
What makes these poems unique is their ability to contrast each other in their way of viewing society from either a very realistic viewpoint or a semi enlightened viewpoint. This gives the reader the ability to look at each poem as to see it from each perspective which would not have been possible if only one was made. If these poems were read only one at a time the reader would only have half of a view on society. For example in "Songs of Innocence" the chimney sweeps were given hope by Toms dream about being saved by an angel if they worked hard. The narrator is also used to illustrate another point, in the beginning Tom is frightened and scared but after the dream her is "happy and worm"(23), showing that a person can be happy even when times look bleak and sad. This prospect of hope also sets up a feeling of further bitterness in "Songs of Experience" because the boy in the snow thinks that there is no hope for himself because instead of being punished for doing a bad job he is punished by his parents because he is happy around them so he sees little reason to have hope that the situation will ever improve for him. These examples show the connection between the two poems and their themes.
In contrast, in "Songs of Experience" many of poems themes and ideas are more realistic. The boy who is in the snow understands that he is in a that situation because he was happy and enjoying childhood, his parents sold him to the chimney sweeps therefore isolating him from society and practically giving him a death sentence because of the hazards in his profession. He talks about large organizations such as the church of england and the government in the same lines as his mother and father who think they have done no harm. Just like his parents these large organizations had the power to save the boy but fail to see the problem in society and fail to help the chimney sweeps. This view of the "Songs of Experience" give the reader a view that they feel that they could help by confronting these organizations about their problems instead of just hoping they will get better.
These examples from the "Songs of Innocence" and the "Songs of Experience" creates an image that illustrates William Blakes view that both naive hope or terrible reality is true. There is a another level of understanding that incorporates both innocence and experience to create a true view of the political issue dealing with the chimney sweeps in the city of england, and while one speaks words of hope and the other bitterness the reader understands that something must be done to help the chimney sweeps.