Blake's Poem

875 Words 4 Pages
Structurally, Blake composes the poem as a dramatic monologue utilizing an ABAB rhyme scheme and simple vocabulary. Much of the work uses an anapestic poetic meter, which is often characterized with childish cadence of literature. The composition therefore resembles perhaps a children’s hymn -- establishing the innocence of the boy which narrates it. Ergo, the very nature of youthful innocence is tied inextricably to the overall tone of the poem.
Blake not only addresses the reader, but additionally establishes the entire tragic past of our protagonist within just the first two lines. The chimney sweep is simply a victim of his circumstance; the narrator states that “my father sold me while yet my tongue / Could scarcely cry ‘ 'weep! 'weep!
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After becoming a chimney sweep, Tom’s head was shaved, presumably by his master or boss, in order to prevent soot from destroying or contaminating it. While Tom cried, however, our narrator finds solace in the experience, claiming in lines seven and eight that it, “for when your head's bare, / You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair." This is the first introduction of Blake’s metaphor which uses black and white as vessels through which he discusses corruption and innocence respectively. For Blake, a child’s white hair is but a manifestation of their untainted youth and purity. In evidence of this claim, Blake relates the child’s hair to a, “lamb's back,” which he uses as a symbol of innocence other poems such as “The Lamb.” The relationship between the young animal and purity dates back to Christianity, wherein the young sheep was used as a sacrifice to god, therefore representing both suffering and innocence. This metaphor, however, does not stop here. Lambs are also related to the pastoral English countryside, of which Blake will refer to later in the poem as being an inherently idyllic and dreamlike location for children. Consequently, by cutting off the child’s hair, the narrator claims that one preserves the white innocence of his being. Because of this, Tom’s shaved head can be interpreted positively as a preservation of purity through …show more content…
As the narrator stated in the fourth line, the chimney sweeper’s suffering does not end when he stops working; rather, he brings the dirty blankets and cloths he used to collect soot throughout the day to his resting place and sleeps in them. Therefore, the contamination follows the boys home, where it haunts them even in their dreams. Tom’s vision begins with thousands of sweepers (of generic names) locked up in coffins of black. As mentioned earlier, Blake uses black as a symbol of corruption. Just as the chimney sweepers are forced to work in confined, ashen-black spaces in reality, so too are they trapped within them in the dream. The coffins also relate to the macabre fate which will likely befall these children -- poor working conditions and carcinogenic ash often led to early death and abysmal health for any sweep. But just as they are trapped, an angel appears with a bright key to, “open[ed] the coffins & set them all free.” This key, emanating light, is perhaps a biblical allusion to Matthew 16:19, wherein Jesus gives Matthew the keys to heaven. Conceivably then, the dream establishes that the only escape from their lives is that of eternal bliss through

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