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The Chimney Sweeper

The Chimney Sweeper

William Blake’s, The Chimney Sweeper, focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a young orphan having to deal with the pressures of losing their parents and being forced to take part in child labor in order to live. The poet uses images and metaphors in order to show the child’s views on how and why his life has changed. Different structures and meanings are the result of these images and metaphors. The poet stresses on how young the child is, through the structure of the poem in order to suggest how wrong the pressures of child labor are.

The structure of this poem helps the reader understand where the poem is coming from, the eye’s of a child. This structure is shown through the way in which the poem is written. The poem is written in very simple wordings and as well in simple stanzas. This structure helps the reader see that the poem is about a young child who speaks in a very simple language. The simple words and terms used through out the poem stress the child’s intellectual capability, which focuses our attention on the fact that this is just a child having to deal with so much pressure and pain.

The poem is written using two rhyming couplets in the first stanza and then in the remaining stanzas there are alternating rhyming lines. As well this poem is written in iambic pentameter, except in the second line when it says “Crying “’weep, ’weep.”…” (2). The words ’weep, ’weep are to be stressed because these two words are a very strong point within this poem. The words not only represent the weeps that this young child cries from the pain and hurt that is being caused to him, but the words as well can represent the demands that are put upon him. Before the word weep there is a single quotation in front of each W, which could represent the letter S. This would then turn the word weep into sweep and since the word is repeated it could represent the demands and pressures that are put upon this young child. These structures that are used help the poem to open up the meaning of child labor being wrong by helping to stress the tone of a young child, allowing the reader to realize how young these children actually are that are being forced to work in child labor.

The meaning behind this poem is shown not only through structure but as well through metaphors and images. The images and metaphors used help to establish that this poem is about a young child who is an orphan and is being forced to deal with the pressures of child labor. The poem is written as though it is coming right out of the child’s thoughts. Many of the thoughts are very naпve, which helps to stress how young this child is. An example of this would be when the poet writes: “Where are thy father and mother? Say?” / “They are both gone up to church to pray,”(3-4). The child at this point was so young when his parents died that all he remembers is going to a church and never seeing them again. At this young age a child usually only knows of a church as somewhere where people go to pray, he does not realize that they did not just go to pray and never come back, but that they were there for their funeral and that is why they never came back.

The basic tone of the poem is sad, angry, and confused. These tones all focus on the feelings of this young boy and the confusion he feels about how is life has turned upside down. Since it was the cause of his parents death that turned is life in another direction he asks him self the question of how could they both leave him and allow his life to get like this. The boy continuously blames the fact, that since he was so happy before his parents died, he was blinded with how life can really be and their death was a punishment to show him the truth. This is shown in the following:

“Because I was happy upon the heath,

And smil’d among the winter’s snow;

They clothed me in the clothes of death;

And taught me to sing in notes of woe. (5-8)

The image of snow is used in the above stanza. The boy states that even in the snow he was happy before his parents died, snow symbolizing cold and bitterness. The death of his parents is then represented by the image of clothes of death, because once those clothes of death were worn, the boy was no longer happy and he entered a whole new world that was unknown to him before, a world that “…taught [him] to sing the notes of woe” (8).

The poem ends with the child’s negative views towards death: “And are gone to praise God and his priest and king, / Who make up a heaven of our misery” (11-12).

These last two lines stress how upset the child is and is being battered with child labor. The last line especially, “Who make up a heaven of our misery” (12), is stating that when the parents went to heaven it caused the young child misery, turning his life around to the worst-case scenario. Using this as an ending emphasizes just how miserable the life of this child has become. When all that he loved has left him and he is now alone. This ending allows its reader to feel sad and dark when they are finished reading the poem, for you know that the child will not be getting better and life will continue for him in a way we never wish to know.

William Blake’s, The Chimney Sweeper, is a sad and lonely poem. It uses images and words that help the reader to feel from inside this young child. Images and Metaphors are used throughout the poem viewing a child’s new life and new feelings. The structure of the poem is written as though it is coming straight out of the child’s head, dark and miserable for the new life that he has stumbled into is nothing but a “…heaven of our misery”(12).


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