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The Chimney Sweeper: Experience And Innocence (Essay Sample)


William Blake's two poems “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience include the voice of a child. Write a comparative essay exploring how these voices are similar and different, and how they affect a particular reading of each poem. Use not only the content of the poems but also poetic form and style.


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The Chimney Sweeper
I. Introduction
Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, composed by William Blake, have similar poems that compare experience and innocence. Both poems share the title “The Chimney Sweeper,” and both describe a young lad working the unsafe job of a chimney sweeper but in remarkably different ways. The Chimney Sweeper's raconteur on Songs of Innocence lives a horrid life that could cause his death anytime. His mother is deceased. He was sold off as a slave by his father; yet, the boy is still capable of maintaining optimism and consoles his friend when his head is shaved. Despite the despair in this poem, a tinge of hope still lingers. The same applies not to Songs of Experience. Forsaken by his unctuous parents, the boy was left to perish as a chimney sweeper while his parents left for prayers in church. William Blake's powerful imagery coupled with a plain rhyme scheme demonstrates how childlike hope turns into a loss of innocence for the two chimney sweepers.
II. Discussion
Songs of Innocence starts with the raconteur narrating his woeful condition of being a child laborer. Being sold off by one's father and death snatching one's mother cause a loss of innocence. The narrator coincidentally yells “weep” instead of yelling “sweep” due to his “lisp.” He is involuntarily crying out in anguish due to the circumstances that have befallen him. The narrator also yells out in Songs of Experience. He yells out “weep,” however, this time, it is not unintentional. The narrator entirely understands the magnitude of his circumstance. William Blake exhibits a development from unawareness to understanding, or better innocence to experience.
The narrator vividly discusses the condition of Tom Dacre, his friend, in Songs of Innocence. When Tom Dacre is initially mentioned, the narrator is consoling him his hair has been shaved off. Tom's hair is painted as “curled like a lamb's back.” A lamb is a standard emblem of innocence and Blake utilizes this symbol strategically in Songs of Innocence. While consoling Tom, the narrator asserts that “now, the soot cannot ruin your white hair.” The narrator means that the monstrosity of their condition cannot tarnish Tom's innocence and purity as a child.
That evening, Tom dreams of his friends' demise, but surprisingly, the dream is not nightmarish. In his dream, the sweepers are “confined in black coffins.” These coffins symbolize the chimneys wherein their death awaits. They do indeed die in Tom's dream, and their demise causes their freedom. Released by an angel from their misery, they now live joyfully in frolic heaven. The boys reclaim their innocence through their death because they become “white and naked,” which symbolize innocence and purity. The angel further proceeds to inform Tom that “if he conducts himself well, he would never long for joy and God would be his father.” Tom also has a chance of reclaiming his innocence if only he acts well while still alive. Tom awakens to the gloom of his bleak reality, but he is “warm and happy.”
The poem ends with the sentiment, “if everyone does their duty, they should

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