Blake's Writing on Chimney Sweepers

Blake's Writing on Chimney Sweepers

Length: 1186 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Industrial Revolution was a crucial point in the history of the world, and also a very difficult time to endure, especially for the working class. In the late eighteenth century, a young poet and artist by the name of William Blake became outraged and inspired by the inhumane treatment of young boys called "chimney sweeps." Thus he produced a protest in the form of simple poetry. Wicksteed says, "Deeper knowledge of Blake will reveal no darkly buried meaning, only a deeper sense in the meaning obvious to all." (Hirsch, 7) This is precisely the case in the protest Blake calls "The Chimney Sweeper." Blake utilizes realism, rather than deep symbolism, in the form of imagery to portray the brutality of the Industrial Revolution.

When Blake was inspired to write about these boys, their barbaric lives were not only common knowledge, but accepted. Throughout the passing years, however, history has lost sight of the horror they faced everyday. Therefore, familiarity with such details does help the reader to see more clearly Blake's indictment of a society that allows children to be subjected to almost unbelievable wretched conditions, and it also gives more force and point to the realism and imagery. (Nurmi, 15) History reveals that children usually began these lives at the age of 6 or 7 or even earlier. The job tormented their small bodies, leaving them to die with deformed ankles, twisted kneecaps and spines, or with "chimney sweeps cancer." The boys began their days long before sunrise until about noon when they "cried the streets" for more business. When it was time to return these young boys carried heavy bags of soot to the cellars and attics where they slept. Even the task of sleeping was torture. The boys owned nothing and were given nothing, leaving them with only the bags of soot that had swept for a bed.

Though the life was hard, it did not hold a candle to the actual duty of their job. Some chimneys were as small as seven inches in diameter, forcing the children to go up them naked. After all, clothes took up needed room and cost money to replace. Also bare skin, though it would bruise and scratch, did not catch on the rough plaster inside. This harshness on their bodies gave the boys such a dirty reputation that they were seen as subhuman creatures. Churches even turned the boys away and forbid them to enter the sanctuary.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Blake's Writing on Chimney Sweepers." 26 Jun 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper

- William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper, written in 1789, tells the story of what happened to many young boys during this time period. Often, boys as young as four and five were sold for the soul purpose of cleaning chimneys because of their small size. These children were exploited and lived a meager existence that was socially acceptable at the time. Blake voices the evils of this acceptance through point of view, symbolism, and his startling irony.      Blake expresses his poem in first person, as a young chimney sweeper....   [tags: William Blake Chimney Sweeper Essays]

Research Papers
675 words (1.9 pages)

William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper Essay

- 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....   [tags: William Blake Chimney Sweeper Poem Essays]

Research Papers
911 words (2.6 pages)

The Voice of the Chimney Sweepers Essay

- William Blake (1757-1827) led a relatively happy life. At an early age, he claimed that he could see God, Angels, and other important Italian figures. Blake’s parents encouraged him to keep a record of all the masters he claimed to keep in contact with. Blake’s father, James Blake, gave him casts and engravings to keep this record. At the age of ten, Blake started at a drawing school named Henry Pars’ Drawing School. Three years later, he was apprenticed to a Master Engraver, James Basire. Blake worked with Basire for seven years, and then attended the Royal Academy School to further his study in drawing, painting, and printmaking....   [tags: Literature]

Research Papers
1183 words (3.4 pages)

William Blake 's London And The City Of London Essay

- William Blake lived and wrote in the city of London; Blake’s writings often criticize the political and social environment of his time. “London” is one of Blake’s most political powerful criticisms. Most of his writings analyze different sides of a subject, and this dichotomy of opposing sides is apparent in his collection Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. The ominous and grim poem, “London,” is a part of Blake’s experience collection. In “London,” William Blake’s use of symbolism and imagery creates a grotesque and disturbing portrait of London and conveys his theme of a corrupt and oppressive society....   [tags: William Blake]

Research Papers
708 words (2 pages)

Essay about History And Its Effects On Society

- History is a huge part of mankind’s existence as it reminds them what they have accomplished and tells stories to their little ones about the things humans have created in their short lives. Moreover, history is key to civilization here on earth but sometimes humans have a bad habit of only writing about their victories and forgetting to mention their failures. No matter what the case, mankind knows that there are always two sides to every story because they know they are far from perfect. However, it is the handful of individuals that come along once in a life time that reminds every one of their flaws and immoral ways and opens human’s eyes and changes their ways....   [tags: Chimney sweep, William Blake]

Research Papers
1720 words (4.9 pages)

Essay about Impressions of the People and Society Blake Lived In

- Impressions of the People and Society Blake Lived In In this essay I will be exploring William Blake and the Romantic views expressed in his poems. Romanticism was an early and artistic way of looking at things which ended with Victorian age. Romantic’s supported freedom of thought, movement and life style and were against oppression of any kind. Romantic’s saw children as the future and were against child labour and the snatching of childhood. They saw the negative affect on life due to industry and viewed industrialisation as blameworthy for enslaving people and their ‘masters’ treated them badly....   [tags: William Blake Romantic Period Essays]

Research Papers
1938 words (5.5 pages)

Essay on William Blake's Attitude Towards the Poor

- William Blake's Attitude Towards the Poor William Blake was born in 1757 and of an early age he wrote poetry, soon enough he became well known to the Church and also the wealthy. Blake was very critical towards the Church despite being a firm believer of God. He thought that the Church were overpowering the poor side of the Country. Blake would get his message through to others in the use of poetry, if people studied the poems they would get a clear idea of Blake's views. William Blake wrote two books which included some of his poems, they were called 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience.' Songs of Innocence was written in 1789, five years earlier than 'Songs of Experience'....   [tags: The Chimney Sweeper Wealth Poetry Essays]

Research Papers
3296 words (9.4 pages)

How William Blake Uses Poetry as an Instrument for Social Comment Essay

- How William Blake Uses Poetry as an Instrument for Social Comment Living in a world without modern technology and media. William Blake (1757 - 1827) used his poetry as a powerful instrument for social comment. This is particularly evident in 'Laughing Song'; and 'London'; taken from The Portable Blake. The two poems present conflicting views of creation and mankind. In his innocent years, Blake saw the world as a 'joyous meadow, natural and free. However as he grew with experience his naive ideology was tainted with images of war and devastation....   [tags: Laughing Song London William Blake Essays]

Free Essays
1238 words (3.5 pages)

The Chimney Sweeper By William Blake Essay

- William Blake’s poems “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence written in 1789 and “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Experience written in 1794 are two poems about Tom Dacre, a young chimneysweeper. Blake wrote these poems during the Romantic Period, which influenced the themes in his work like religion, poverty in London and child labor, which were all prevalent matters at the time. Despite the poems having many similarities, the tone each poem was written in gained different sympathies from the reader through the two different perspectives each poem was written from....   [tags: Chimney sweep, Chimney, William Blake]

Research Papers
818 words (2.3 pages)

Essay about William Blake's Life and Work

- William Blake is widely considered the most controversial writer of his time because of the content included in his writing and his expression of good versus evil that is apparent in his paintings. In my essay the “Proverbs of Hell” is a great and very telling example of Blake’s natural and flowing poetry. He is considered by most a great role model in the history of art and his writings during the Romanticism time period. Romanticism was a movement that was developed between the eighteenth and nineteenth century....   [tags: Poet, Poetry Analysis]

Research Papers
1861 words (5.3 pages)

Related Searches

Knowing this, it is not hard to see where Blake was coming from. That fact is that little Tom Dacre's life, as seen by Blake, was far more accurate than symbolic. For instance, the first stanza explains why the narrator spends his life in misery. His mothers death and disgust in the fact that his father sold him into the workforce like a piece of merchandise, is emphasized more than the fact that he was very young. (Hirsch, 185) This is the first sign of Blake's fury at a society that would put a child into a situation of this magnitude. It also is the first glimpse of Blake's amazement at children that have somehow learned to preserve their humanity in circumstances that are all but completely dehumanizing. (Nurmi, 15) This gives the reader an obvious sense of anger toward society.

In the same stanza Blake moves from anger to pity for the child. Blake uses the words "weep, weep," from a child obviously too young to correctly pronounce the word "sweep." (William Blake, 261) Previous information has provided a clear knowledge that in lines three and four, Blake was not speaking symbolically or metaphorically, but with blatant realism.

In the second stanza, Blake familiarizes the reader with not only a character named Tom, but also his agony. Although Tom's haircut is a ritual one, he cried because it has become an everyday reminder of the repulsive black creature he has become. (Nurmi, 17) The narrator then attempts to comfort Tom by feeding him the straightforward fact that he is indeed lucky to have his head shaved. Blake portrays this young boy to then be mature enough to accept that his hair will never be the clean and white bundle of curls it once was. It is unclear why Tom is lucky to have his head shaved, but Tom is reassured and then moves on. (Hirsch, 184)

The third stanza is when Blake really begins to delve into his use of imagery with his description of a vision seen by Tom. Blake writes about Tom seeing the many others like himself who are all also licked up in coffins of black. This image speaks of the literally black coffin like chimneys they all knew so well. (William Blake, 261) This again implies pity for Tom and the other boys. Not only is it saddening that Tom knows how terrible his life is, but that it is all he knows.

As the uplifting vision continues, Tom dreams of a spiritual being who would come and rescue him from him misfortunate life. The reader is able to see Tom's pathetic dream to do nothing more extraordinary than to run and play in the sun, be clean and have a loving father. Blake allows the reader to, not only feel this, but to see Tom step out of reality for a brief moment and dream of the simple things he deserves. (Price, 42)

As Tom's playful vision comes to a close in stanza five, Blake begins to implement that faith is the only way for Tom to be carried through the darkness and into the light he dreams of. This naïve faith has become Tom's only means for survival. (Price, 42) Without faith, Blake shows the reader that Tom would ultimately loose any glimpse of hope, and he would die. The Angel becomes Blake's tool to show Tom this truth.

Tom's dream has ended in the last stanza, as all good things do, but it leaves him with a fresh sense of hope. The vision of innocence seen in a clearly fallen world is, however, different from the innocence seen within the child's own world. (Adams, 260) From this it is clear that Blake's character can only survive reality if he has such an image of hope to hold on to. This concept was sad but true for all of the sweeps during the Industrial Revolution.

Works Cited

Adams, Hazard. "The Interpretation of Blake's Poetry." William Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems. Seattle, WS: U of Washington P. 1963.

Hirsch, E.D., Jr. Innocence and Experience: An Introduction to Blake. London: Yale U P, 1964.

Nurmi, Martin K., "Fact and Symbol in ‘The Chimney Sweeper' of Blake's Song of innocence." Blake: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Northrop Frye. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1966.

Price, Martin, "The Vision of Innocence." Twentieth Century Interpretations of Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Ed. Morton D. Paley. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1969.

Works Consulted

Munson, Amelia H., Poems of William Blake. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1964.

Sampson, John. The Poetical Works of William Blake. London: Oxford U P, 1913.
Return to