The Chimney Sweeper

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Once again, as in Holy Thursday and The Little Black Boy, this child-monologue uses the child's innocent perspective to present what could be a biting and savage indictment of social and psychic repressiveness: the child's consoling vision of the pastoral after-life may be a glorious and 'innocent' celebration of Heaven, or it may equally well show the extent to which the child-speaker has been conditioned into acceptance of his slavery in this life. The references to the 'blackness' of the children, together with the dualistic references to black body/white soul, invites comparison with The Little Black Boy. The imagery within stanzas Four and Five, of leaping and laughing children, washing in rivers and children on clouds, recurs throughout the Songs of Innocence.


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.


Devasena Hariharan said...

beautiful and really touching one

Viji said...

every poetry of Blake is that... and this is my favourite :) Thanks for dropping in :)

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