The Life of Working Class in William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and of Experience”: Poetry Analysis

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The Industrial Revolution in the Romantic era meant that poverty became part of human nature for London’s working class (de Pennington, 2011). A social theme in that is prominent in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence an

d Songs of Experience. Blake’s The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Experience 1794, depicts the inevitable cruel fate of these abused innocent children. As well as this, it denotes the exploitation of the destitute by the state through Catholic faith. Concerned with such political vices of his time, he creates empathy for the disadvantaged youth, a characteristic of Romanticism (Benton, DiYanni & Benton, 2013). Within The Chimney Sweeper’s first three lines of the first quatrain, following the simple rhyme scheme of AA/BB, Blake compels the reader to view the events from an adult’s point of view. The opening line ‘A little black thing among the snow’ demonstrates how adults, how society at the time dehumanised children, a tool historically used to enslave others. Indicated by the narrator’s use of the noun ‘thing’ to describe the chimney-sweeper.

The second stanza of the poem the rhyme scheme changes from that of the first to ab/ab, designating the change of narrator from the adult to the young boy, the chimney-sweeper, also shown through the change of tone from concern to despair and sadness. The third and last stanza of this poem is the most significant. However, in order to better comprehend it’s poignancy, it should be compared with Blake’s first The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Innocence 1789. Providing the reader with another understanding of the same predicament (Freedman, 2014). The 1789 poem focuses more on the depiction of the innocence and naivety of young chimney-sweepers, clearly inferred by Blake’s use of Iambic pentameter, adopted to form the notion of a nursery rhyme. Whereas the other poem’s iambic pentameter is inconsistent in terms of its syllables, reflecting the disturbed childhood of the boy. Additionally, the 1789 version, consists of much more religious imagery formulated through the contrast of black and white, and dark and light, hinting at life and death, ‘Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,’. The ‘coffins of black’ a metaphor not only foreshadows the chimney-sweepers death but also their current situation. Originally mentioned in the first stanza ‘So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep. ‘ the soot is the black coffin. In the last couplets of both The Chimney Sweepers, Blake evokes the transition from innocence and naivety to experience and realisation. ‘Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm.

So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. ’ (1798) Blake uses irony to connote naivety. And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,//Who make up a heaven of our misery. ” The use of an oxymoron in the last line attacks not only the Catholic Church and the state but the orthodox Christian God. This journey from innocence to experience, as well as Blake’s blatant attack on the omnibenevolence of God, links these poems with Voltaire’s Candide ou l’Optimisme who comes to the same conclusion. Highlighting the significance of activism in literature to prevent the abuse of the poor from society.


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