William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper Essay
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William Blake’s The Chimney Sweeper
William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” was mainly about the possibilities of both hope and faith. Although the poem’s connotation is that of a very dark and depressed nature, the religious imagery Blake uses indicates that the sweeps will have a brighter future in eternity.
In lines 4 – 8 when Blake writes, “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.’ These lines symbolize faith in the biblical sense. Young Tom’s is like that of the sacrificial lamb of God and when the narrator tells Tom to stop crying because he…show more content…
“Then down a green plain a leaping and laughing, they run, And wash in the river and shine in the sun. Then naked and white all their bags left behind, They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;” When Blake wrote these lines he was of course referring to the act of Baptism. Which is defined in the Bible as being a water ritual, used as a spiritual symbol. Through this process the sweeps would be washed clean of all of their sins and also be cleansed of all of the bad things in their lives including their jobs. “And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.” This line of the poem indicates that if Tom was a good child and did as he was told on Earth that he would not be forsaken by God as his parents had forsaken him in his former life, but instead he would have everything he could ever possibly desire and be completely content in his afterlife. “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.” Through these words Blake reveals hope rather than despair because the focus is on immortality instead of life as a sweep. “The little Sweep's dream has the spiritual touch peculiar to Blake's hand.... (Gilchrist).” As stated before Blake is trying to convey
The poem is built around a series of powerful, closely related contrasts. The first, introduced in the second line, is that of bondage and freedom, for the child is literally sold into a state of both servitude and imprisonment within the chimneys. This contrast is reinforced by the parallel contrast between black and white. Covered in soot, the sweepers are habitually black; Tom’s white hair is cut off, and the whiteness of his skin is only regained in the dream, when he, along with the other boys, is able to wash in the river. The color contrast suggests the condition of the African slave, whose plight Blake, an ardent supporter of abolition, describes in “The Little Black Boy.” Like that little boy, the blackened chimney sweeper suffers the injustice of a white society that puts commercial values before moral ones and treats him as an outcast from the human condition.
A second group of contrasts juxtaposes work and play, sorrow and joy, tears and laughter. In the streets, the sweeper can only call, “weep weep,” and Tom cries when his head is shaved, but in the dream, the scene that is the subject of Blake’s illustration, the boys leap, laugh, and play.
The final antithesis is that between death and life, coldness and warmth, darkness and light. The sweepers endure a death-in-life, the literal cold and dark of their days matched by their deprivation and the cold indifference of society. In Tom’s dream, however, the washing in...
(The entire section is 517 words.)