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William Blake and The Chimney Sweeper

            William Blake was never well known as an author in his on life time. He was considered to be an eccentric man, who questioned everything in society. Blake was religious, yet he wanted no part of the Anglican Church. He created his own personal mythology, for, as he would say: "Must create a system or be enslaved by another man's". Blake thought the Anglican Church corrupted and cynical - that it made the lives for those who were poor, a living hell. He was very concerned with working class children. He found their life situation unbearable. One area in particular captured Blake's anger, and this was the situation of those young boys who were sold to work as chimney sweepers. Provoked by their poor quality of life, he wrote two poems about them, both called "The Chimney Sweeper". One of the poems was in his poetry collection Songs of Innocence, and the other in the collection named Songs of Experience. To make it easier, I will from now on refer to the poem from Songs of Innocence as poem 1, and the poem from Songs of Experience, poem 2.
             As stated, both poems are about the unfortunate destinies of many little children who at a very young age were dressed in black and recruited as chimney sweepers. Through these poems, Blake is making us see the situation from their perspective, and makes us understand what their lives must have been like. They would get up early in the morning to sweep dirty, black chimneys until night. They never had opportunity to see sunlight. Then they would sleep for a few hours in the never-ending trail of soot. In short, they lived their lives in complete darkness, with no joyful moments of childhood other than the joy created by their young, innocent minds. They were repressed and taken advantage of by the adults who "owned" them, and led a life of poor quality in absolute filth, with sickness, fleas and lice. Even though one can read much into Blake's descriptions, I would imagine it would be hard for us to understand how horrible their lodging situation actually was.

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