The Chimney Sweeper: From Innocence To Experience

1351 words - 5 pages

In the XVIII century the industrial revolution in England increased radically the demand for work force. This situation made many countryside families emigrate looking for better life conditions in the industrialized cities. However; what they found was confinement inside the walls of factories where greedy owners did not want to pay workers high wages. Children were neither big nor educated enough to argue or complain and were small enough to fit between machinery gaps where adults couldn't; moreover they were paid cheaply, therefore children became ideal workers.Not only were these children subjected to long hours, but also to horrible conditions. There were many accidents where children were injured or killed. The treatment in factories was often cruel and unusual; they would be beaten, verbally abused or subjected to different kinds of pain inflection.William Blake was aware of the poverty and oppression of the urban society where he spent most of his life. He had an amazing insight into contemporary economics and politics, and was able to discern the effects of the authoritarianism of church and state.As a critic of his time Blake took an active role in exposing the corruption taking place in his society. He was inspired by the inhumane treatment of young boys called "chimney sweeps." Thus he produced a protest with his poetry.The chimney sweeps began their days long before sunrise until about noon when they shout in the streets for more work. When it was time to return, these young boys carried heavy bags of soot to the cellars and attics where they slept. Even the task of sleeping was a torture. The boys owned nothing and their employers gave them very little money leaving them with only the bags of soot which they used as beds.In 1789 William Blake published his poem collection Songs of Innocence where he dramatized the naive hopes and fears that evidence the lives of children."Blake might be considered a romantic who cultivates love towards childhood and innocence, not as something apart and unique but as an element of social relation…" (Blake: 17)This collection belongs to the pastoral popular tradition or lullabies.Songs of Experience was first advertised in 1793, before being rebound together with Songs of Innocence the following year. The poems of Experience are darker in tone and outlook, the innocence of its counterpart seems to have turned into experience.The first lines in The Chimney sweeper from Songs of Innocence are very striking for a little boy has lost his mother and his father has sold him like a piece of merchandise; the poet appeals to the reader's empathy with the use of these strong images.The first stanza explains why the poetic voice lives his life in misery."When my mother died I was very young,And my father sold me while yet my tongue,Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weepSo your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep." (1-4)The word weep besides the sound of a baby crying also regards the way children were...

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