Essay about The Theme of Authority in William Blake's Poetry

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The Theme of Authority in William Blake's Poetry

The theme of authority is possibly the most important theme and the most popular theme concerning William Blake’s poetry. Blake explores authority in a variety of different ways particularly through religion, education and God. Blake was profoundly concerned with the concept of social justice. He was also profoundly a religious man. His dissenting background led him to view the power structures and legalism that surrounded religious establishments with distrust. He saw these as unwarranted controls over the freedom of the individual and contrary to the nature of a God of liberty. Figures such as the school master in the ‘schoolboy’, the parents in the ‘chimney sweeper’ poems, the
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The gates are shut to prevent approach and the chapel announces itself within the prohibition ‘Thou shalt not’. Blake saw organised religion as being profoundly at odds with the spirit of freedom and life. The disturbing image of the priests in black gowns…walking their rounds’ makes them seem more like policemen of morality rather than priests of Christ. Blake emphasises his dislike of the priests by connecting the positive and negative with internal rhymes in the final two lines of the poem ‘gowns’ and ‘rounds’, ‘briars’ and ‘desires’. It is clear that joy and desires have no place in the priest’s perceptions of life.

In ‘The Chimney sweeper’ in Songs of Innocence Blake begins by emphasising the speaker’s isolation. He is motherless and has been sold by his father to s chimney sweep. The overtones of slavery here are significant, especially when we consider that, since he is blackened by soot, this sweep is another little black boy. Blake emphasises how young he is through his inability to pronounce the word ‘sweep’ (‘weep, weep, weep, weep’) a pun which also picks up on the boys sadness and tears. The physical and mental oppression of the child are highly expressed in this poem. The parent being figures of authority sells their child to a chimney sweep possibly for income, but is it worth the life of the child? In the ‘Chimney sweeper’ in songs of experience, the possibility that the parents have gone to church to pray because of a

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