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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 1760 words

Compare and contrast "The Chimney Sweeper" in Songs of Innocence with "The Chimney Sweeper" in songs of Experience by William Blake. Discuss other poems by Blake that appear to be critical of the society in which he lived.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast "The Chimney Sweeper" in Songs of Innocence with "The Chimney Sweeper" in songs of Experience by William Blake. Discuss other poems by Blake that appear to be critical of the society in which he lived. William Blake composed two famous poem collections entitled 'Songs of Innocence' and 'Songs of Experience'. Within these he reveals harsh opinions of the 18th century and his anti establishment views of the society in which he lived. From these collections I am going to compare and contrast the two poems "The Chimney Sweeper" from songs of Innocence and "The Chimney Sweeper" from songs of Experience. Within this essay I will analyse the way in which his opinions are portrayed and the way imagery, structure and form create extreme visual effects. I will also review two other poems entitled "The garden of love" and "The little vagabond" which further reflect Blake's critical outlook on social inequality, the disparity caused by wealth and divides of class, and the unsavoury social consequences of selfishness, greed, and power lust from society's authorised members. Blake was writing during the harsh conditions of the industrial revolution where the world was changing and developing at a tremendous rate. It was a time of great political upheaval and paranoia, resulting in Britain's powerful and wealthy classes fearful of revolt.

Middle

Throughout the poem Blake uses clever language with hidden connotations to portray images with 2 meanings, this is reflected in the line "And so he was quiet". This quote suggests that Tom was forced into the severe life of chimney sweeping and also implies death, an image that is continual during the poem. The second and third stanza of "The Chimney Sweeper" from songs of Innocence harshly juxtapose each other with the second portraying a 'white' innocent image in comparison to the following stanzas creating images of black and death. This dark image is strengthened in the metaphor; "Were all of them locked up in coffins of black" this quote displaying connotation implies a negative image of children being forced up the chimneys and in effect forced to their deaths. The next 2 stanzas reinforce the opposing positive imagery with colourful and bright images being portrayed, "Green plain leaping, laughing they run" and "They rise upon clouds" these quotes reflect his dream of living in heaven, a harsh contrast to their dismal lives as chimney sweeps. In the last stanza Blake is highly cynical about religion; "So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm." This quote displays irony, as how can death be harmless? It also suggests that the dream has given him hope, as he will return to the joyful life he previously witnessed.

Conclusion

In "The Chimney Sweeper" from songs of Experience the rhyming scheme changes from A,A,B,B to A,B,A,B; displayed in the last 2 stanzas. In "The Chimney Sweeper" from songs of Innocence however, the rhyming scheme stays the same but internal Para-rhymes are present; " And so he was Quiet and that very night" with the rhyme being portrayed on quiet and night. Throughout both poems however some rhymes are incomplete due to the pronunciation of the words. Blake wrote many other poems. He was often highly critical of the church and religion throughout these poems, "The garden of love" and "The little Vagabond", both taken from his collection of songs of Experience, reflect this and his anti-establishment views on the society in which he lived. Both poems again use the technique of a narrator to tell the story. In the "Garden of love" Blake is highly cynical about the church and reflects about a green in which children used to play, being spoilt by a chapel that has been recently built there. Although Blake doesn't address the idea of chimney sweeping, the image of death and darkness is again portrayed with quotes such as "filled with graves" and "tomb-stones" this suggests an unwelcoming place, which again is not stereotypical of a church. This poem again reflects his ideas of a spoilt childhood with a clever metaphor; "binding with briars my joys and desires" this suggests that his childhood joys were demolished due to the construction of the church.

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