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The Voice Of The Chimney Sweepers

1305 words - 5 pages

William Blake (1757-1827) led a relatively happy life. At an early age, he claimed that he could see God, Angels, and other important Italian figures. Blake’s parents encouraged him to keep a record of all the masters he claimed to keep in contact with. Blake’s father, James Blake, gave him casts and engravings to keep this record. At the age of ten, Blake started at a drawing school named Henry Pars’ Drawing School. Three years later, he was apprenticed to a Master Engraver, James Basire. Blake worked with Basire for seven years, and then attended the Royal Academy School to further his study in drawing, painting, and printmaking. After his studies, he started out engraving and producing illustrations for magazines. In 1783, he happily wed Catherine Boucher, and taught her to paint and draw. She was devoted to Blake, and helped him print in what would be an unsuccessful attempt at opening his own print shop. They had no children. He began to experiment with engravings, and drawings, and in such, became famous for them. People of his time thought him to be rather insane, because his artworks were so strange to the public. While he didn’t get much recognition for his first set of poems published in 1783, a book of poetry appropriately named Poetical Sketches, he is known for the gentle, yet outspoken poetry of his 1789 published work, Songs of Innocence, and his rather profound disillusionment of his 1794 collection, Songs of Experience. In these works, he proposed the ideal that society is the key destroyer of childhood innocence, but, keeping a strong imagination could ultimately help redeem the fallen world.
During Blake’s life, he was known for his painting, his engraving, his artistry, his love of music, and his strong opinion that child labor laws were too strict. Most children were sent off in the early mornings to do a full day’s work, for half the pay of an adult’s, even though the quality of work was the same. Children were sent off the squeeze into small places day after day. Limbs could break. Soot was inhaled. The poisonous chemicals in the chimneys caused hazardous situations, and thus medically, the children were hindered. Children worked anywhere from six to eight hours a day, and were expected to get up bright and early the next day to show up for work. On the occasions that they were allowed off from work, they went home to abusive families or foster homes. Business owners claimed that putting them to work, the children were able to care for themselves, and their poor families. Still, many thought that the hours and dangers heavily outweighed the value of a few coins. Blake was not the only Poet of the time who fought for the rights of the children, but he was one of the few who publically showed his detest for such labors, through his poems, “The Chimney Sweeper-Songs of Innocence 1789,” and “The Chimney Sweeper-Songs of Experience 1794.” Blake was able to shed light on the cruelty of society of the work ethic of children,...

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