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In the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience Blake conveys his thoughts and feelings about the treatment of the children of the poor

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Introduction

How does Blake convey his thoughts and feelings about the treatment of children of the poor in England of his day? In your answer, either make detailed use of one or two of his poems or range widely across the songs. In the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience Blake conveys his thoughts and feelings about the treatment of the children of the poor by displaying how these children are the products of exploitation, how they are ill treated and ignored. Blake explains in his poems how society do not recognise, or more probably, refuse to recognise the abuse of children of the poor and would rather use them as victims in this harsh evolving capitalist world. Through many of the poems regarding children of the poor, Blake gives the children a voice. He is trying to say: We are human - not only human, but also spiritual and divine. In The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Innocence Blake presents children of the poor who are not treated as if they are moral human beings, 'And my father sold me', they are treated as if they are objects; 'So your chimneys I sweep and in soot I sleep'. The narrator is not Blake himself; the poem is in fact spoken through the words of a little boy chimney sweeper, which allows the reader to feel closer and much more sympathetic towards the little boy. ...read more.

Middle

Religion is seen to be on the side of the parents, 'who are both gone up to the church to pray.' Blake is displaying the hypocrisy of the parents here as they are thanking the Lord for their wonderful life while their son has been sent out to work, ultimately ending in his death. God himself is implicated in the child's condition, 'God and his priest and king, / Who make up a heaven of our misery' - emphasis on the whole system which represses the child, even forcing him to conceal his unhappiness ('clothed'), psychologically as well as physically. God is transformed from a father in Songs of Innocence to an oppressor in Experience and the systems within society who are tolerating such abuse of children are held up to our scorn and loathing. The simple language Blake uses and the rhythm make the poem from Songs of Innocence almost like a nursery rhyme. This can also be seen through the extra syllables in some of the lines, 'As Tom was a sleeping'. This nursery rhyme likeness reinforces the innocence and the young naivety that children possess. Blake manages to convey his own thoughts through The Chimney Sweeper poems showing that children are misled by their own innocence. He is condemning society who wrongly convince the vulnerable that they have a part to play in the world despite their exploitation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Blake would seem to suggest that society is doing its best for the children and this poem 'expresses the idealism of one who saw the annual charity school service as a manifestation of loving care, [whereas] the Holy Thursday of Experience presents the horrified protests of one who recognises it as intolerable evidence of mass poverty in society.' (Internet Source) In the Experience version of Holy Thursday, Blake gives the reader a different view - sceptical and hostile, explicitly criticising society. The rhetorical questions Blake uses all the way through imply and enforce his indignation. 'In a rich and fruitful land' conveys the inequality of the social classes; the children are instrumental in maintaining the social hierarchy. The use of the word 'babe' conveys a lack of innocence and childhood - Blake is conveying that children of the poor are not able to enjoy the freedom and innocence that they rightfully should. Although they are children, they do not seem to live in the state of childhood. Thus Blake holds even the charitable actions of society are not what they seem and goes beyond their outward manifestations to examine their motives - making us aware of the conditions that permitted such poverty to thrive. Blake is conveying with these poems the importance of protecting and valuing innocence wherever it is found and that society is corrupt in its treatment of children of the poor. ...read more.

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