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. The poorer citizens within society suffered the consequences of disastrous political decisions with many families becoming separated, as young children were often made to endure harsh conditions such as chimney sweeping, consequently killing them at an extremely early age. Blake was born in London in 1757 and bought up in a poor working class establishment. Although he had received no form of education he had managed to educate himself from books such as the Bible and Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise lost’, which may have influenced his opinions and views of 18th century society. Blake was also a talented artist as well as poet but didn’t receive much critical acclaim until shortly after his death in 1827. Blake’s writing reflects the extreme conditions of working class Britain and the surroundings in which he lived. A lot of his views were highly religious as he frequently studied the Bible, in some of his poems however, he is very critical towards the church.