In London William Blake’s in his poem stated that the condition of chimney sweeps was a very touching one. Young boys with low age like six years of age were sold by their parents who were not able to afford feeding them. These boys were forcefully sold to slavery and they could not deny and if they refused they were terrorized by these new monsters, which were willing and frightened to take them back to their lives of starvation and poverty where they came from (Blake). The report from the house on sweeps showed that the work was terribly threatening and proved very risky. The sweeps suffered from diseases like cancer due to soot exposure, also they suffered from broken bones, respiratory diseases and boys had slow growth rates. Sweeps generally chose starvation instead of chimney this choice was made because they lived threatened life by fear of death.
The young sweeps poems were written by Blake during the time he saw young boys suffering in London streets from what he saw he wrote two poems. Of two poems he wrote one song of experience and another one songs of innocence. Printing of the songs of experience and songs of innocence was done at two intervals. The songs of innocence first copies were printed in 1789 and come 1794 he printed the second phase where combined this with other plates which were illuminated and gave the printed copy title the songs of experience and innocence (Linda).
When doing a comparison for these different chimney sweeper poems by Blake, we tend to have some feelings of sense concerning experience and innocence as contrary states. Those sweeps in innocence are finding it difficult to comprehend the life situation in which they have found themselves into. Though he is sold, he could hardly cry by his tongue weep weep, weep weep. Here the word “weep” is sounding closely like “sweep”. The poetry strategy as suggested by Blake shows that there are less distinct ways words sounds at our ears, suggesting that there are fewer difference meanings of the words to the child (Linda). Though the language of the child was not enough to show some feelings of his sorrow. The false language the child has been taught makes him believe that lack of happiness of sadness should be the truth of life every day.
The young child narrating the song from innocence is, therefore not able to understand the world where he gets himself. Thus making innocence a threatening situation compared to experience. The experience of chimney sweeper knows that his situation is miserable and angrily blames the community for it. Just like the innocence boy, he is crying “weep weep” and here once again Blake puts sound similarity between sweep and weep. The distinction here is that the experience boy is aware that this kind of life has been forcefully put upon him and later knows how he has been taught the sweeps sorrowful language. Not like innocence Blake puts the suggestion that experience is a state of control and knowledge.
Anger is directed by the child of experience to the church. In his last line of the poem, Blake puts it clear that churches make gains from the unbearable lives which the child leads, thus making up a heaven of their sufferings. This is suggesting that churches are built on very genuine pain. It also suggests that church puts a notion of happiness, assuming that children such as the sweep are okay and satisfied instead of suffering. The sins practiced by the church as seen by Blake are used in preventing people from seeing issues because they are trained on false wisdom. Therefore Blake notes that today social problems are almost directly connected to spiritual problems. They forget to convince that absence of spiritual truth in the beliefs and practices of the church just like the child parents fail to perceive his misery.
In innocence, the chimney sweeper, the friend of the speaker, young Dacre Tom had a dream that opens up the wrong notion suggesting that the world’s misery is solved or relieved by salvation. Not having experience tools, that are able to equip him in seeing this fallacy for what they are, like the innocent narrator, Tom Dacre is less many than a ventriloquial person for organizational control. He parrots the actions of oppression in the poem last line. “So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm”. Tom has internalized the language of abuse just like the innocent narrator and does not have the right vocabulary which he can use to criticize it.
An illuminated plate by Blake’s shows more visible different figure kinds. The small, dancing children forms seems naturally extensions of leaves and vines and curling calligraphy in the songs of innocence. Top three little figures of the plate are not easily separable from it. These boys here all have a light and unearthly quality removed away from the chimney sweep life. The paradisial landscape is suggested by the green in the foreground (Blake). The figure of an adult at right bottom hand corner is a picture depicting Jesus by Blake. It is a salvation picture and does not depict the real suffering condition.
When comparing, there is child bending over from the plate from the songs of experience, the boy is unable to keep into terms with the onslaught of hard work and winter. His face has been turned upwards and is looking accusingly towards the viewer. This is, therefore, putting us into the same situation as fathers, who have gone to pray in the church. Not like the innocence plate, in which there are free figures from earthly restraint and slender, this child is heavily set. Here the sky is dark and the snow is driving down. The plate coloring is black, kind of muddy brown and white, this suggests that it’s a winter period where things can barely grow and thrive.
The cruel condition of the chimney sweeps as shown in Blake’s society is not the only thing these two poems are about. They also immensely put comments about different situations of experience and innocence. Here innocence seemed to be a threatening situation this is because those who are innocent do not understand the world which they are living in. but in comparing the boy of experience is a more outspoken social criticizer. This makes Blake put the social critics together with the criticism of churches which are organized religion accurately according to his view on both situations as spreading of some serious problems linked by perception. Thus making Blake conclude that this is a block towards attaining social growth. The child that has experience is able to see the platitude of organized region and condition that makes Blake believe that this kind of malice keeps the boys chained to a dangerous and terrifying life.
The poem on innocence, which was a substantial oration, was spoken by a sweep in rhyming couplets with simple language. In the poem, the boy is explaining how he was sold by his dad after the demise of his mum. The person who read the poem also get emotionally cornered the way the boy is exploited is exploited; “so your chimney is weep”. Though these are Blake’s suggestions, the person who speaks seemed not aware of his degradation. The most important part of this poetry is that comparison between the ecstatic vision of the liberty and grim realities of sweeps lives both contained in Tom Dacre dream. In reality, though, they had restricted lives, infected by death, during the dream; they appeared free, running, leaping and doing sports in wind. The dream took place at pastoral idyll, which is a plain that was green- there was light, laughter, pleasure and color; the main world was a dark picture, subject to forces of life in the city and an economy of a capitalist in which the boys could only wipe away due to their degradation.
Though the freeing came at a cost, little tom is being told by the angel who is releasing the sweeps with a key which is bright that if he has to be a boy who is good, he has a god for his father and never want joy. It is a reused stimulation in a poem on its last line. The boys needed not to fear any harm if they do well their duties. This kind of submission seemed an unlikely description from Blake who is a social critic. Truly the dream motivated Tom perseverance to his sufferings (he felt warm and happy when he woke up). From this it was clearer that Blake does not advocate for resistless recognition of the suffering of the earth so that to gain joys and happiness of heavens kingdom after death.
The songs of experience, the chimney sweeper are an even bleaker poem. In twelve lines, nine of those lines are spoken by the sweep, though the poem starts with a different person who speaks as a spy among the snow that was a black little thing. The color is conspicuously monochrome and is not green and bright as seen in toms dream in the poem of innocence (George). The imagery is similar to experienced poems. It was done in winter and unlike Tom’s dreams sweeps which were naked, not having any clothes symbolized by Blake restriction or social convention, here the person who speaks is wearing the death clothing and sing the war of note song. Though the speaker remained very happy throughout the poem, his feelings just like a child in any romantic writing are driven constructively, not like the boy in innocence poem, he is understanding his oppression. And it might be because of his happiness that their parents sold him to slavery.
Happiness helped them absolved from status because they reckon they have not been done for destruction. After forcing selling their son into slavery, they teach them to sing “the notes of woe” (George). These fathers again go to church to worship God, which the child now is telling us that it made the heaven of our suffering.
In conclusion, the two chimney sweeper poems portray Blake as a person who is radicle to criticism of injustices in social life. Blake’s indictments of desperate material conditions and, institutions which are responsible for their perpetuation is powerful and passionate, though his strongest anger is kept for the forces that are the established organized religions, uncaring parents and mercenary that are restricting our dream and preventing us against comprehending our infinite possibilities and oppression of real perception.
George Norton. William Blake chimney sweeper poems; a close reading, 2014
https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/william-blakes-chimney-sweeper-poems-a-close-reading. Accessed on 14th October 2018.
Linda Freedom. Blake Two Chimney Sweepers. Article published 2014
https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/blakes-two-chimney-sweepers. Accessed on 14th October 2018
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Vol. 2. Princeton University Press, 1998.
https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jbKBi_omDkkC&oi=fnd&pg=PA6&dq=blake+two+chimney+sweeper&ots=TCBsyRMLDn&sig=coPMjIeTdW5eSSx-mZhGr0JphRo&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=blake%20two%20chimney%20sweeper&f=false. Accessed on 14th October 2018
Blake, William. The complete poetry and prose of William Blake. Univ of California Press, 2008.
https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=yf8kDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR1&dq=blake+two+chimney+sweeper&ots=9UeHVuI8Hw&sig=5kXM0CEB_EwD5g6O6sGtmYOmyVM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=blake%20two%20chimney%20sweeper&f=false. Accessed on 14th October 2018