The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake

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The Chimney Sweeper
William Blake

The Chimney Sweeper, by William Blake, has two versions. One, written in 1789, which is twice as long as the second, written in 1794. However, both versions paint a picture of how child labor was during the time; one having more of a somber side, while the other is more hopeful. None-the-less, both were very important writings and hit the culture hard enough to encourage a change. Blake did this by using powerful forms of word choice, imagery, and tone.

Blake used many words with connotation that effected the text in very interesting ways. Such as, when Blake uses “ ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!” , it is a play on words. Where a child may say sweep, when young enough, they may only be able to say ‘weep due to a lisp or a slight speech problem. However, it could also be due to many hours of exposure to, and breathing in the fumes of, soot. Another example is “They clothed me in the clothes of death, -- And taught me to sing the notes of woe.” It is much darker and deeper due to the words. Where the “clothes of death” indicates the short lives that the chimneysweepers lead. And where the child “sings the notes of woe” it is a little ironic because singing has a positive connotation. Blake used his word choice to influence his entire writing and give it a specific connotation.

Blake uses his imagery very well in the both poems, and using them to help with the overall tone of the poems. One use of this is “There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head – That curl’d like a lambs back. was shaved,” Blake expresses youthfulness and positivity with the comparison to a lamb’s back. His use of positive imagery in the first poem gives it a hopeful and almost blissful tone. However, he contrasts with negativity and malice in the second poem. “A little black thing among snow”, where the first poem described the child’s features, the second only refers to the child as a “black thing”. It also shows the contrast between...
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