This simple poem is two stanzas of six lines each. The two stanzas each follow an ABCDDC rhyme scheme, a contrast to most of Blake’s other poetic patterns. The rhyming words are always framed by the repetition of “thee” at the end of the fourth and sixth lines, drawing the reader’s attention to the parent, who speaks, and his or her concern with the baby. The infant’s words, or those imagined by the parent to be spoken by the infant, are set off with dashes at the end of each line, turning this short poem into a dialogue between parent and child regarding the naming of the baby. That the baby names itself reflects Blake’s desire to see the human spirit determine its own state of bliss, rather than to rely upon a form of happiness imposed upon it by social constructs or religious institutions. This baby is the perfect innocent who, when left alone to determine its own nature, find joy rather than guilt or repression within.
The last three lines of the second stanza speak to the innocence of the child. “Thou dost smile, I sing the while; Sweet joy befall thee!” The presence of smiling, singing, and being joyous gleam with those innocent happy days only the adults remember of the two year old. The presence of the I is either Blake pretending to recollect his childhood or simply just using his observations of children or a specific child to draw upon. The words joy, happy, and sweet are sprinkled delicately throughout the poem to enhance the notion of the content nature of the two year old child. This repetition and presence calls to the attention of perpetual happiness. Though these factors can be tied to innocence which leads to vulnerability, the happiness of the child may also stand alone within the internal nature of the child. Blake is arguing that to be young and without a label, is to be happy. It is to be perpetually joyous. The first stanza calls for this interpretation, “’I have no name; I am but two days old.’ What shall I call thee? I happy am, Joy is my name.’”
‘I have no name; (no identity) I am but two days old.’
(pure, innocent, happy, naivety of innocence)
What shall I call thee? ‘I happy am, (no problems or responsibility) Joy is my name.’ Sweet joy befalls thee! (Irony/ won’t live in joy/ child’s prayer)
Sweet joy, but two days old.
(Still pure and innocent) Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile, (fake smile, can’t understand the pain). I sing the while; (momentarily / will vanish) Sweet joy befalls thee! (Sense of irony repeated).
Blake emphasizes the sense of naïve.
The Chimney Sweeper (Songs Of Innocence) Notes:
“The Chimney Sweeper” comprises six quatrains, each following the AABB rhyme scheme, with two rhyming couplets per quatrain. The first stanza introduces the speaker, a young boy who has been forced by circumstances into the hazardous occupation of chimney sweeper. The second stanza introduces Tom Dacre, a fellow chimney sweep who acts as a foil to the speaker. Tom is upset about his lot in life, so the speaker comforts him until he falls asleep. The next three stanzas recount Tom Dacre’s somewhat apocalyptic dream of the chimney sweepers’ “heaven.” However, the final stanza finds Tom waking up the following morning, with him and the speaker still trapped in their dangerous line of work.
There is a hint of criticism here in Tom Dacre’s dream and in the boys’ subsequent actions, however. Blake decries the use of promised future happiness as a way of subduing the oppressed. The boys carry on with their terrible, probably fatal work because of their hope in a future where their circumstances will be set right. This same promise was often used by those in power to maintain the status quo so that workers and the weak would not unite to stand against the inhuman conditions forced upon them. As becomes more clear in Blake’s Songs of Experience, the poet had little patience with palliative measures that did nothing to alter the present suffering of impoverished families.
What on the surface appears to be a condescending moral to lazy boys is in fact a sharp criticism of a culture that would perpetuate the inhuman conditions of chimney sweeping on children. Tom Dacre (whose name may derive from “Tom Dark,” reflecting the sooty countenance of most chimney sweeps) is comforted by the promise of a future outside the “coffin” that is his life’s lot. Clearly, his present state is terrible and only made bearable by the two-edged hope of a happy afterlife following a quick death.
Blake here critiques not just the deplorable conditions of the children sold into chimney sweeping, but also the society, and particularly its religious aspect, that would offer these children palliatives rather than aid. That the speaker and Tom Dacre get up from the vision to head back into their dangerous drudgery suggests that these children cannot help themselves, so it is left to responsible, sensitive adults to do something for them.
Child’s destiny was already sold. Never find a time to rest Child’s destiny was already sold. Never find a time to rest The Chimney Sweeper (had a tough life/ short life expectancy)
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! (sweeping/couldn’t even cry) So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep. (similar sound to sweep/ sibilance/ acceptance of his situation in life) Sense of being in prison, head being shaved. His father sold him, used his insignificance to be a chimney sweeper. Sense of being in prison, head being shaved. His father sold him, used his insignificance to be a chimney sweeper.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved: so I said, (idea of purity, holy) “Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare, (offer him some help) You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.” (Whatever has been burnt).
And so he was quiet; and that very night, (obeys and stops crying). As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, –
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, (common names, working class) Were all of them locked up in coffins of black. (metaphor for chimney, enslavement, are going to die young (can’t escape)). Children died, death set them free. Angels represents religion Children died, death set them free. Angels represents religion
And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run, (active) And wash in a river, and shine in the sun. (baptize – cleaning of sins / shine in heaven)
Hadn’t to worry about anything anymore.
Hadn’t to worry about anything anymore.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind, (innocence form/holy/reborn, connects with Tom in G.M. because Tom leaves his bags behind) They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind; (souls taken to higher level) And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, (didn’t mind about his situation in earth, will be rewarded). He’d have God for his father, and never want joy. (has faith in god/ never lack joy)
Lack in the real world. He had a vision of everything white and wakes up in the dark. Lack in the real world. He had a vision of everything white and wakes up in the dark. And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm; (he still has faith) So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. (real threat on earth if they don’t do their job)
The poem has a constant rhythm (constant work) repetitive nature of job. He accept that his destiny by looking at what comes for him (death). No way out to change situation.
The Chimney Sweeper (Songs Of Experience) Notes:
Where that poem posits a subtle satirical message against the type of religion that brings false comfort to abused children, this version strikes directly at the problem. Like Tom Dacre of the earlier poem, the chimney sweeper is crying. When asked where his parents are, he replies, “They are both gone up to church to pray.” The boy goes on to explain that his appearance of happiness has led his parents into believing that they have done no harm in finding him work as a chimney sweep, but the boy knows better. He says they taught him to “wear the clothes of death” and “to sing the notes of woe.” In fact, they taught him to do this “Because [he] was happy upon the heath,/And smil’d among the winter’s snow.” The boy’s happiness was in fact an affront to his parents, and his ability to enjoy life despite the deathly cold and deprivation of winter, which may represent poverty, as it does in “Holy Thursday,” is the very quality that condemns him to a life of further labor and danger. The boy finishes with the damning statement that his parents “are gone up to praise God & his Priest & King/Who make up a heaven of our misery.”
When compared structurally to the companion piece from Songs of Innocence, it is obvious that this poem is half as long as its counterpart is. In addition, many lines are much shorter by one or two syllables. The voice of the young chimney sweeper is similar to that of Innocence, but he clearly has little time for the questions put to him (hence the shorter lines). This poem starts with the AABB rhyme scheme characteristic of innocence and childhood, but as it delves deeper into the experience of the Chimney Sweeper, it switches to CDCD EFEF for the last two stanzas. The final stanza, in fact, has only a near rhyme between “injury” (line 10) and “misery” (line 12), suggesting an increasing breakdown in the chimney sweeper’s world, or the social order in general.
The entire system, God included, colludes to build its own vision of paradise upon the labors of children who are unlikely to live to see adulthood. Blake castigates the government (the “King”) and religious leaders (God’s “Priest”) in similar fashion to his two “Holy Thursday” poems, decrying the use of otherwise innocent children to prop up the moral consciences of adults both rich and poor. The use of the phrase “make up a Heaven” carries the double meaning of creating a Heaven and lying about the existence of Heaven, casting even more disparagement in the direction of the Priest and King.
The Chimney Sweeper (lost of hope/given up on faith)
Ironic, he was cold & happy, being restricted to do what he wants. Ironic, he was cold & happy, being restricted to do what he wants. A little black thing among the snow, (not a warm environment) Crying! ‘weep! weep!’ in notes of woe! (repeated again – motif) (sense of failure of what was hopeful) ‘Where are thy father and mother? Say!’ – ‘They are both gone up to the church to pray. ‘Because I was happy upon the heath, And smiled among the winter’s snow, They clothed me in the clothes of death, And taught me to sing the notes of woe. ‘And because I am happy and dance and sing, (child’s nature, lost their innocent native state). They think they have done me no injury, And are gone to praise God and His priest and king, (inspiring, not providing help, conspiracy) Who made up a heaven of our misery.’ (superficial/ made up control religion/ heaven is supposed to be something good not miserable)
lines 11 and 12 blames religion/ monarchy is falling / god is human form change in rhyme scheme = change in tone.
Misery = play on words
mystery is actually misery
someone who believes in heaven and faith throughout the poem.
“London” follows an ABAB rhyme scheme throughout its three stanzas with little deviation from iambic tetrameter. Only “Mind-forg’d manacles” and “How” and “Blasts” in lines 14-15 are irregularly stressed. “Mind-forg’d” is stressed to further its contrast from the preceding three lines, each of which begins “In every” to create a litany of cries throughout London. Lines 14 and 15 give irregular stress to the two words in order to further disturb the reader, leading up to the oxymoron of the “marriage hearse” in line 16.
The poet expresses his disdain for the urban sprawl of post-Industrial Revolution London in terms as harsh as his praise for nature and innocence are pleasant. A society of people so tightly packed into artificial structures breeds evil upon evil, culminating with the “Harlot’s curse” that harms both the young and the married. It is as if a system has been created specifically to destroy all that is good in humankind, a theme Blake takes up in his later works. The reader is warned off visiting or dwelling in London, and by implication urged to seek refuge from the world’s ills in a more rural setting.
Blake’s critique is not aimed only at society or the system of the world, however. Only the third stanza directly addresses one group’s oppression of another. Instead, much of the poem decries man’s self-oppression. One reading of the poem suggests that the Harlot of the last stanza is in fact Nature herself, proclaimed a Harlot by a narrow-minded, patriarchal religious system. In this interpretation, Nature turns the marriage coach into a hearse for all marriage everywhere, because marriage is a limiting human institution that leads to the death of love rather than its fulfillment in natural impulses.
I wander through each chartered street, Near where the chartered Thames does flow, A mark in every face I meet, Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every man, In every infant’s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, The mind-forged manacles I hear: How the chimney-sweeper’s cry Every blackening church appals, And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls. But most, through midnight streets I hear How the youthful harlot’s curse Blasts the new-born infant’s tear, And blights with plagues the marriage hearse.
Tom is depressed by his mother = chartered
Family is trapped = act as tools for someone superior. Tom is a tool of Amanda. Witch = Amanda (gentlemen caller)
Hearse (produces coffins) = tom is the one who is trying to set free (trying to get out of coffin). Manacles was made by mind not man.
Jim and Laura = creates freedom if they were together. death marriage Mind forged = Tennessee couldn’t go to college.
Laura inhibition = mind forged manacle (her leg) delusion.
They don’t have the freedom of speech (ABAB).
Unstructured rhythm = broken.
Represents how society works/ not active (observer).
Infant Sorrow (Songs of Experience) Notes :
The companion poem to “Infant Joy,” this brief piece focuses on the pain and tribulation accompanying childbirth, but from the infant’s perspective. He finds himself “helpless” and “naked,” but also describes himself as a “fiend hid in a cloud,” suggesting future harms he may perpetrate. To the infant fresh from the safety of his mother’s womb, there is no comfort in the father’s arms, so he settles for sulking at his mother’s breast.
“Infant Sorrow” follows the Innocence rhyme scheme AABB for its two brief stanzas. The first quatrain and half of the second include words full of energy, such as “groaned,” “leapt,” “piping,” “Struggling,” and “Striving,” while the last couplet gives up in defeat with the words “Bound,” “weary,” and “sulked.” The lively child has given way to a tired, world-weary infant in mere moments.
My mother groaned, my father wept: (similar to the glass menagerie) Into the dangerous world I leapt, ( tom not knowing what he is going to do) Helpless, naked, piping loud,(pure) Like a fiend hid in a cloud.(hiding/pretending/fiend (dangerous/can’t trust)). Struggling in my father’s hands, Striving against my swaddling bands, Bound and weary, I thought best (child calculating how to better survive) To sulk upon my mother’s breast.
Lines 5 and 6 represent capturing and animalistic.
Lines 7 and 8 = finds comfort to the family.
Dangerous = already aware of the dangers of the world.
Struggling = attempting to break away from parents.
Children represent poor people (struggling) parents represent monarchy Being bound = being trapped
Infant sorrow/joy = moral values/ sense of knowledge (experience). Fathers hands represents faith
Struggling striving = breaking free from their bonds.
Naked baby in a cloud represents angels/ painting in a church. Faith and religion = enemy/ can’t trust.
Mind forged manacles = organized religion / a lie / created by people. Infant sorrow = bound, struggling, swaddling bands (links)
Last couplets (sorrow) = instinct / already knows about the dangers of the world. Sulk = feel better / don’t have to find food / mother is there easier choice.