The Chimney Sweeper (Blake, 1794)
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The Chimney Sweeper
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|The Chimney Sweeper is a poem by William Blake, published in Songs of Innocence and of Experience in 1794. It is located early in Songs of Experience, between The Little Girl Found and Nurse's Song. This poem is best understood when read in conjunction with the corresponding poem, The Chimney Sweep, in the Songs of Innocence.
The first stanza is a testimony that describes the situation of a little chimney sweeper in the snow who is crying and calling for his parents while they are praying at the church. In the second and third stanzas, the child explains his situation. He describes that he had been happy and “smiled among the winter snow,” but also he was taught to suffer when he says “and taught me to sing the notes of woe.” Adults are mentioned in the poem when he questioned “Where are thy father and mother?” and when he says “God & his Priest & King.” Finally he blames “they” and adds “who make up a heaven of our misery.”
The poem is pictured by an engraving made by Blake himself. It shows the child walking along a street, it is a rainy day and he is alone. Furthermore, the boy is barefoot and dirty. With his right hand he is holding a brusher and is carring a dirty, big bag on his back. The rain is particularly dark. The final point is that the child is looking at the storm with what it seems a sad expression in his face.
A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.
Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil'd among the winters snow:
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.
And because I am happy & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King,
Who make up a heaven of our misery.
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.