Discourse of Children in William Blake’s “Chimney Sweeper Nujhat Afrin
Abstract: This study of the poems, present a contradiction between the states of innocence and experience, two phases through which all people must pass. Here we see the naturalistic world of childhood against the world of corruption. The poem “The Chimney Sweeper” is set against the dark background of child labor that was well known in England in the late 18th and 19th century. The poems (Chimney Sweeper in innocence and Experience) are meant to convey two different views of human life, the view of innocence and the view of experience. In the state of innocence, we look at things freshly; we look at natural objects and wonder at them, finding in them a child’s simple apprehension of beauty. Blake writes these poems to let the reader knows that many kid’s lives are being exploited in the cities of England. He expresses his disgust about the plight of the majority of the chimney sweepers and how the society and church turn a blind eye of their sufferings. In the society they live in, innocent children are in anguish because of the harsh treatment of the adult population. While it endorses hope, the reader must acknowledge that something needs to be done to improve the lives of these children.
i. History of poetry for children: Between the years 1715 and 1804, no genuine poems for infant minds were
written. In 1715 Isaac Watts had written “Divine and Moral songs in Easy Language” which is a book of short poems intended for children. But in the following years there was no prolific writing for children. After Watts there were Ann and Jane Taylor, but they were chiefly the creators of the moral tale in verse. However there are three writers who stand out as separate figures in the period 1715-1804. They made verses about children and for children. The three are John Merchant, Nathaniel Cotton and William Blake. At first William Blake was unknown to the younger minds of that period. But later, Blake’s poems surpassed all the barriers of negligence and lack of consideration and secured a prominent place in the world of verses for children. Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” is a record of the innocent experience, an expression of human nature which is observed and conceived by a child. And at its root lies the ecstasy of shadowless and pure joy. Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” published in one volume in 1724. Songs of Innocence and Experience are collections of lyrics in which there are many pair’s of poems. The tone and the mood of the first section that is, the “Songs of Innocence” is struck in the first poem “Introduction” itself. In the first series the poet gives expression to the gleeful aspects of childhood and their sports. But as it comes nearer to the more serious aspect of “Experience”, the poem gathers complex imageries and symbols.
ii. The chimney sweepers are in a sense destitute since their parents sell them to sweep the soot. The soot that
sticks on their body is so choking that the boy in his dream views it as a coffin. As Freud says, “Children see their unfulfilled desires of real life as fulfilled in dreams and that very thing happens here. The little boy’s sense of “father-lessness” and lack of parental care hurt him and so he dreams of the possibility of having a father who may be kind, protecting and warmly hearted. But later when he turns back to the reality of daylight, he realized that if everyone does their duty patiently then they need not to fear harm. Actually this study explores that unsatisfactory mind of children and the wrong judgment of society with them. While Blake writing his second series of poems “Songs of Experience”, he included several reflections of poems which were a part of his “Songs of Innocence”. The two sides of the story, innocence and...