William Blake wrote ?The Chimney Sweeper?, in 1789. This poem tells the story of a young chimneysweeper and his dream. The analysis will cover the poem's figurative language and it's meanings and goals.
Lines 1-4 The first line does not include any poetic element. It hit with the reality and the brutality of its meaning. The second line's tone however is enough to be a verse "while yet my tongue". Blake, by omitting the first letter of the word sweep in the third verse, seemingly recreates the child's lisp so as to highlight his innocence and young age. In those first two lines, we see an image of an anguished child in a state of agony or even in a state of corruption.
The child does not languish in emotion; he quickly states that his mother is dead and that his father sold him at a tender age. He again is very accepting of the fact that he cleans our chimneys and yet sleeps in their dirt. We are forced to look at this child misfortunately.
In line 3 the poem states, ? Could scarcely cry weep weep weep?. The meaning behind the words proves how young this little boy was, and brings compassion to the reader. The child attempt at saying, ?Sweep! Sweep!? which was the chimney sweeper?s street cry. This section shows that children have a very positive outlook on life. They make the best of their lives and do not fear death.
The poem tells the story of what happened to many young boys during this time period. Often, young boys 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. Voices the evils of this acceptance through point of view, symbolism, and irony.
In line 4 ?in soot I sleep.? The soot is representational of the belief that these children are unfit to enter Heaven because they are dirty. Tom dreams of cleansing his body in the river to clean off the dirt, both the physical dirt and the "dirt" that he was born into.
Lines 5-8 The second stanza has a happier tone than the first. The poet uses a simile in the second verse to denote Tom's innocence-Lamb eludes to Jesus, hence innocence, and good. Then, Tom's hair symbolizes his purity. To have his hair shaved off is to rid him of that. Tom's hair color also reinforces his innocence: white is the color of good. Similarly, Blake also uses a metonymy to illustrate evil-the soot (black) will not sully Tom's white hair (purity). The color black seems to be very important because it is used to represent sin against innocence, the color white snow.
"Head's Bare" in line 7. A head full of hair would attract a lot of dirt and built ups through the years of cleaning chimneys. In order to solve this problem, the masters of these children would shave the hair that these kids had in order to see the dirt and clean them easier.
Line 8 "White Hair" the word "white" symbolized innocent. Blake is commenting on the innocence of these children who are forced to clean chimneys at such a young age that in return have no knowledge how cruel the world is. Most boys that cleaned chimneys for a living weren't the cleanest children. They didn't have clothes to go change into where their clothes got dirty. A majority of the time they just stayed dirty. So to make it easier most boys shaved off their hair. It was easier to keep clean that way (well when you don't have any hair at all of course you'll stay a bit cleaner, but cleaning chimneys isn't something anyone wants to do if they're worried about getting dirty, because there really isn't anyway to avoid it).
Lines 9-12 The third stanza elicits fear and suspense in the reader: Tom has a nightmare-all his chimneysweeper friends are locked up in a "coffin of black". Again, the author draws on a metonymy to emphasize Tom's hellish nightmare. The "coffins of black" could also be used as a metaphor for chimneys.
Line 11 "thousands of sweepers" It's incredible the number of children that were...
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