Friday, September 24, 2010

The Chimney Sweeper (1789 & 1794)

Here are the two poems that were on the A.P.Exam. shown to you in class today. They come from Blake's book  Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

In 1788, there was an attempt to pass an act to improve the treatment and working conditions of these young children. This would have made many people, including Blake, aware of the lives that these chimney sweeps would live. For instance, they slept in cellars on bags of the soot that they had swept , and they were poorly fed and clothed. They would sweep the chimneys naked so their masters would not have to replace clothing that would have been ruined in the chimneys, and they were rarely bathed. Those who were not killed by fires in chimneys usually died early anyway of either respiratory problems or cancer of the scrotum.

The Chimney Sweeper (1789)
      William Blake (1757-1827)
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 & in soot I sleep.

Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lambs back was shav'd, 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. & that very night.
As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack
Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black,

And by came an Angel who had a bright key
And he open'd the coffins & 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 & 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 & never want joy.

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

The Chimney Sweeper (1794)
A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

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.s

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.

Remember what Susan said in class about the date 1789.
What significance might the French Revolution have had
on the English? Is there a political position Blake is taking? 
How does it differ in the two poems? 

Blake was a printer, an artist, a poet, and a visionary.
In his lifetime, his work  was not taken seriously, and 
he was not well known.  Go onto the Internet to see more
of the artwork Blake created and printed with his poetry. 



  1. The first poem I believe should be in songs of innocence, because he expresses the light, and how God would be his only father. He expresses God as his only father because he has no one to really look up to. It seems like he has never done anything wrong in his life, which also makes him innocent. The first stanza expresses his innocence as well. He has no mother, and he father basically abandon him for no specific reason. In my opinion chimney sweeping is a way to ease his mine. It helps him become a better person, and it also helps him sleep.
    The second poem is related to a song of experience. It seems to me like he was forced to do a job he really didn't want to do, and this changed his entire mood and how he felt about certain things. In the last stanza he expresses anger towards God, and those around him. The last stanza is example of his emotions during this experience.

  2. I think the first poem belongs to the Songs of Innocence becuase it takes about how the young boy having a dream. The dream was about how an angel came to rescue him and took him into a beautiful place. Even though the boy is a orphan, the angel tells him that there is someone waching over him and that person is God. I think this dream gives the boy a sign of hope and gives him comfort. The second poem belongs to the Songs of Experince because the narrator seems to be much more older than the boy mentioned in the first poem. Also, he seems to be really depressed about his enitre life. It seems that life so far has been nothing but a misery and there is nothing worth living for. I think that he is mad at everything that he has gone through in life. I think Blake's political view in the first poem is breaking free of a monarchy.

  3. Mainly the 2 poems are based on struggling through hard times. Blake describes how hard it is for him and others. They are hoping one day for probably freedom or equality. God symbolizes faith and hope so maybe they are hoping for something better. During everything that was going on through that year, work and stuff became more harder to find so ppl had to take whatever they got for a little bit of wage. Blake is mainly the person talking about the struggle through himself and other peoples lives.

  4. The French Revolution occurred at around the same time that these poem were written. At very young ages, children were sold to clean chimneys because of their small sizes. These children were put to work in extremely harsh conditions and suffered; many of them died.

    In the first poem, Blake sets up an image in our heads of an anguished child in a state of pain working in dirty conditions: "You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." Also, in line two,"my father sold me," shows the desperate need for money, readiness of child labor, and the large orphan rate on the streets. "Weep,weep,weep,weep" is a literary device used by Blake to show allusion and repetition. Also, I have noticed that the rhyme scheme of the first poem is in pairs of couplets for every stanza. I believe that the first poem is the "Innocence" poem because the narrator tells us a dream in which an Angel "had a bright key" and would "set them all free." This shows innocence because the narrator is inexperience and thinks that they will be rescued, which shows us that he has an innocent mentality. On, the other hand, the 1794 is about the corruption of innocence. Blake refers to the chimney sweep boys as "a little black thing among the snow", this objectifies the child as a "thing" rather than a human being. This tells us that the parents are hypocrites because "They are both gone up to the church to pray" for their children yet, at the same time, they do not care about them because they make their children work as chimney sweepers. Also, "They clothed me in the clothes of death" could mean that the little boys wear dirty uniforms.

  5. I believe that the first poem is a song of innocence. The poem talks about Angels, God, and God's light; mentioning how Tom had a dream that an Angel set free thousands of children from suffering. The dream represents what the child would like and because of this, it implies that the child has yet to lose his "innocence" giving the poem an Innocent theme.
    The second poem is a song of experience. Blake describes the hardships of children; their experiences and what they go through. The parents are contradicting their beliefs and not paying attention to their children but they go to church either way.

  6. I believe that the first poem is a song of innocence. Tom's naiveness is displayed as he goes along with what is presented in his dream. It contradicts the narrator's experience. The second poem is a song of experience. The narrator describes events that have already happened to him, and refers to his neglectful parents as being unaware of how much he detests his job. The narrator also shows his unhappiness with God and other higher power.
    During the time when these poems were written, the French Revolution was occuring. This might lead the English to believe that what happened in France may certainly happen in their land. Both places were run by monarchs, which also were believed to be run by 'divine right,' a connection to God and all things religious.
    The second poem has more relevance to this issue, because the chimney sweeper in this poem seems to blame the King, God and the priest for the hardships of wage-earners, and for his parents' neglectfulness.

  7. I believe that the first poem is a song of innocence. The first peom discribes the dream that the character have about when they die. He said that in the dream he would be with God and that the angle will set them free.

    The second peom I beileve is a song of experience. This peom talks about tough times and difficulties children had been through during the Revolutionary war. There is a political position that Blake is taking.

  8. I believe the first poem would belong in the song of innocence because from the beginning we see that he has gone through a loss of innocence. He expresses his pain and suffering through the poem in an ironic way. Maybe the poet the through that the irony would help enable readers to distinguish the undertone of sorrow in the poem. This experience of his mother dying while he was young and then later becoming a chimney sweep is showing that it was not a normal loss of innocence that a regular child goes through. He was forced and mostly had to become an "adult" at a younger age than most people.

  9. the second poem would belong in the song of experience because he goes through the death of the experience without obvious sorrow. in all the poem explains one experience and not life long after it like the first poem.

  10. I believe the first poem is a song of expience because the voice of the poem comforts Tom's when his hair was being cut. The voice of the poem also sounds very calm when he told Tom to stop crying about his hair. This poem also shows that Tom worked hard all his life, and he was ready to go to the other world with God. This poem is shows that Tom spent his whole life working in the chimminys, which shows that he had the time to make the friends that he drempt about. Thus showing experience in the workforce because Tom had to been working for a while to make friends and even care about them enough to dream about them.

    The 2nd Poem is about Innocence because the speaker has time to find happyness within his pain. Unlike the first poem, this poem does not give important background information about the speaker. For this poem I invision a dead child telling his story of what he did before he passed away. I could see him following his family and unware of his death, acting out as if they would be able to see him. This poem reminds me of the movie "An American Crime", because at the end the protagonist dies and doesnt even know it.

    Blake probably wrote these poems because they appeal to the lower classes who are overworked for low pay (including the children workers). Blake probably wants to give hope to his lower-class readers by saying God rewards the people who suffer the most!

  11. I believe that the first poem belongs in the song of innocence because of the ignorance that is expressed in it as well as the lack of reaction. The speaker talks about his mother's death and his father selling him without any emotion, which probably means that he does not understand why those things happened. Also, the dream expresses something that Tom cannot quite comprehend. There's fear and he sees the darkness but his resolution to do his "duty" implies that he doesn't see what's wrong with sweeping chimneys. At the same time his reliance on what the angel says is not-eave.

    The second poem belongs in the experience song because there is inquiry with a demand for answers, which usually signifies a level of maturity. Also, the speaker is explaining why things happen. The line "They think they have done me no injury" also implies that the speaker is aware that harm has been done to him.

  12. the First poem i believe is about innocence because of the tone and how emotional the persona of the poem is. for example the first quatran how his mother died and how they had to work the chimney at a young age.

    the second poem is more experienced the tone of the persona is more mature

  13. Both poems are based on going through terrible times hard to deal with. The first poem talks of how god sends an angel to rescue those who suffered and died from their coffins setting them free from pain. Blake expresses himself angrily in his second poem. He was upset at the fact he had to do something he didnt want to do. I think the second one belongs in songs of innocence because he is telling of his experience.