The very first day of class we looked at British nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are short rhymed poems for children that retain parts of history that are passed down from adult to child. The authors of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” and “Ring around the Rosy,” also known as “Ring a Ring of Rosies,” use rhyme in a playful way to tell of significant events throughout the history of London. The verses in “London Bridge,” are used to talk about the different materials that were used to rebuild and fortify the historic bridge. In “Ring around the Rosy,” a nursery rhyme dedicated to the decimation The Black Plague had on the population of London in 1865, the word “rosy” refers to a red rash that appeared in the shape of a ring on the victim’s skin. “Pocket full of posies,” talks about the good smelling herbs people carried with them in their pockets in hopes of getting rid of the terrible smell the disease gave the victims. “Ashes to ashes, we all fall down” of course is symbolic of how many people were killed and the cremation of their bodies. There are many similarities between these nursery rhymes and William Blake’s poem, “The Chimney Sweeper,” printed in the first half his book, Songs of Innocence. “The Chimney Sweeper” is written in the same whimsical tone, and can also be considered a British nursery rhyme.
Most people when they think of chimney sweepers have the scene from Mary Poppins pop into their heads where the men are dancing around happy as could be, but Blake’s poem tells a darker side to the story. The poem begins, “When my mother died I was very young / and my father sold me while yet my tongue / could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep “ (1-3) Right off the bat the reader knows that the narrator’s mother has passed and the father sold him to be an apprentice chimney sweep. From the denotation at the bottom of the page, we learn that the children stood on corners and would shout “sweep! Sweep!” in order to get jobs sweeping chimneys. Blake evokes...
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