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Robert Blake

3 Pages 706 Words

 “The Chimney Sweeper,” from Robert Blake’s Songs of Innocence, is a poem typical of
the themes present in the Songs of Innocence and Experience. The main character is pathetically
unfortunate, and yet diligently fulfills his societal obligations. This poem has a severely ironic
tone, and is clearly a mockery of a society that would perpetuate the inhumane use of its weaker
The speaker of “The Chimney Sweeper” is a young boy who is himself a chimney
sweeper. He shares with a fellow child-chimney sweeper named Tom Dacre, the focus of the
poem. The poem is addressed, essentially, to whom it may concern, and as such the poem seems
to be a vehicle for the boy to declare who he is. He seems to be decrying his position, perhaps to a
passerby. His mother died when he was very young, and although it says his father sold him, this
probably means simply that he works as a chimney sweeper, in order to help support his family.
Then the reader begins to learn about little Tom Dacre, who had to have his head shaved. The
narrator, despite his own horrible situation, finds the ability to comfort Tom. Tom has a dream in
which thousands of chimney sweepers are trapped in coffins, and what must be the angel of death
comes along and lets them out of the coffins and into gorgeous, “heavenly,” meadows and
streams. Then, after cleaning the soot off of themselves in a river, the chimney sweepers ascend
into heaven upon clouds. In his dream, the angel directly addresses Tom, and tells him that if he
continues to dutifully sweep chimneys, God will smile upon him. The speaker relates that
following the dream, all of the chimney sweepers got up and went to work. In the final lines, the
speaker first describes Tom as being comforted by his dream, and then makes the direct
philosophical statement that “if all do their duty, they need not feel harm.”
This poem is clearly written sarcastically by Blake, and thi...

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