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Discuss how Blake uses language and imagery in chimney sweeper poems to communicate his message.

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Introduction

Discuss how Blake uses language and imagery in chimney sweeper poems to communicate his message. In the late 18th century, children from as young as 3 years old were sold by their parents or kidnapped by business men to be made to work as chimney sweepers; these children were forcefully, against their own will, made to climb up peoples chimneys to clean them; having no guarantee that they would ever come back out of a chimney alive. Child labour in the 18th century was made legitimate and was ignored by authority to be seen as immoral. The late 18th century society was very hypocritical and according to William Blake, religion was the main reason that established the hypocrisy of society. William Blake was a late 18th /early 19th century poet that was obsessed with religion he challenged the laws of authority and stood up to the hypocrisy of society. Through his poetry he used religion as a medium to translate his messages in two very different ways through his two poems 'chimney sweeper'; one published In the songs of innocence and the second published in the songs of experience; although both poems have the same title, they send very different messages across about religion where on one hand, the first poem from the book 'songs of innocence' implies that religion is the answer to all problems, the second book named 'songs of experience' insinuates that religion is partly to blame for the hypocrisy of society causing young children to work. ...read more.

Middle

This poem is much darker than the songs of innocence. This is shown as from the start of the poem the child is described as 'a little black thing'; then, further on in the poem it states in verse 2 'because I was happy on the heath' .... 'They clothed me in the clothes of death'. By writing this, Blake is ironically implying that surely, there must be some reason why these children are in such a sorry position and that reason must their fault; he is insinuating that it must be due to the fact that these children were 'happy on the heath'. Blake ironically does this to indicate that this is how society thinks; that they are not to blame for child labour when they really are and have no excuse for why it happens. In the songs of innocence, verse 2, Blake uses colour to imply that these chimney sweepers cannot be touched with sin. This implication is made in verse 2 as it states 'when your head's bare, you know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair' Blake does this because the colour white is pure and the colour of soot is black which is seen as impure sin and by writing 'when your heads bare, you know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair', Blake is insinuating that the impureness of the soot cannot interfere with the purity of the child's 'white hair' so therefore, the child cannot be touched with sin. ...read more.

Conclusion

By writing this, Blake implies that as adults go to the church to praise god, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the oxymoron shows that religion is to blame as parents are praising god whilst their children are having a terrible life as chimney sweepers. Blake's messages in both his chimney sweeper poems are contrasting; where in the first chimney sweeper poem from the book songs of innocence, his message is that religion is the answer to all difficulties; his second chimney sweeper poem from the book songs of experience, communicates the message that religion is to blame for the hypocrisy of society which causes problems like child labour. The chimney sweeper poem in the songs of innocence is a naive poem that establishes the innocence of a chimney sweeper; reminding the reader that they are still children. Blake's message uses religion to give meaning to life and life after death; its message is to do your duty in life and you will be rewarded by having eternal life with god. The chimney sweeper poem in the songs of experience is a much more experienced and darker poem about the life of chimney sweepers; it talks about how society perceives chimney sweepers and takes away their innocence. Blake almost blames religion for the state the chimney sweepers are in; and he gives the message of no hope due to religion creating a hypocritical society. Blake describes society by stating in the last line of poem 2 that they are 'making a heaven of our misery'. ...read more.

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