Romanticism Essay, "To Autumn" By John Keats And "The Chimney Sweeper" By William Blake Ashfield Boys Essay

904 words - 4 pages

The Romantic Era marked a retreat from the prevailing Enlightenment philosophies of restrain and order towards the pursuit of freedom. Confined with a historical period characterised by rapid industrialisation and consequently the growing obsession with consumer culture, many Romantics turned to nature as a source of refuge from the proclaimed corruption of urban life. This in turn led to an appreciation of the sublime and the ideal of the natural world as free from restrictive societal constructs. This is represented in the works of William Blake’s “Chimney Sweeper” and John Keats’ “To Autumn.” These poems present their composer’s intense occupation with the individual through emphasising the individual’s emotions and relationship with nature.
The wretched figure of the child sweeper is a key emblem in Blake’s poems of social protest. In “The Chimney Sweeper,” not only are the sweeps innocent victims of the cruelest exploitation but they are associated with the smoke of industrialisation, thus uniting two central Romantic preoccupations: childhood; and the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the natural world. The poem opens with the image of a little kid who is described as a “little black thing” as he is covered from head to toe in soot because of his job as a chimney sweeper. His soiled appearance is in stark contrast to the white snow around him. White stands for purity whereas black stands for sin. With the aim of this contrast Blake wants to show that attacking that child’s purity is no less than a heinous sin. When the child is asked where his parents are he says, “They have gone up to church to pray.” This is a direct attack upon such parents who sell off their kids so that they can derive monetary benefits out of that transaction. It is a shame that such parents can go to the God’s house to pray in spite of being such sinners while their kids moves from one house to another cleaning chimneys. Blake decries the social system and the institutions of the Church and kingship as it does nothing for the better for these children.
Blake exposes the corruption of social system and the Christianity by revealing the sweeper’s thoughts of the world. The child has a lot of resentment bottled in his heart against his parents so he says that they pushed him into this world of misery and pain as his innocence and childhood gave him more happiness than he deserved, “I was happy upon the heath.” Now innocence is a luxury that he no longer has because his present life which is riddled with rough strife teaches him to “sing the notes of woe”. This means that being carried so far away from his childhood into a world where he has...

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