Dr. Namorah Gayle Byrd
24 March 2015
Analysis of “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake
William Blake was a 19th century writer and artist who was a big influence for the Romantic Age. Blake was born, 1757 in London, England, Blake began writing at an early age and studied engraving and loved Gothic Art, Blake only briefly attended school, being primarily educated at home by his mother. In August 1782, Blake married Catherine Boucher, who was uneducated, so he then taught her how to read, write draw and color. Blake was a 19th century writer and artist who is regarded as a seminal figure of the Romantic Age. Blake passed away August of 1827.
The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake takes place in the late 18th century when only young boys were used as chimney sweepers because they were able to fit up the narrow chimneys which needed cleaning. The boys would be bought from the orphanages and take in the homeless children and turn them into workers. They were between the ages of four and ten, because they were small enough to fit up the chimneys. The boys were up from sun up to sun down, walking up and down the streets seeing who needed there chimney sweeped saying “weep, weep”. They used handheld brushes and scrapers to clean the tar off the walls of the chimney. The working conditions were horrendous for these boys they would often get respiratory illnesses, and distorted bodies from being in tight spaces all the time, they also got burns and ‘chimney sweep’s cancer’ which is caused by the constant annoyance of coal tar soot on the naked skin. Boys have also fallen and choked on the soot while in the chimney and have passed away. The living conditions were so atrocious, that these boys would sleep in cellars on bags jam-packed of soot collected from the chimneys they swept and when it was cold out the boys would dump out the soot and use the bags as blankets. The soot was then sold to farmers, which was used as fertilizer. These boys never got any money, some would go to the parents of the boy and the other would go to the master sweeper.
The first stanza highlights the fact that boys as young as four years old were sold by their parents to master sweepers in what was later deemed to be both child labor and involuntary slavery. In sentence on of stanza one we find out that his mother had died and in sentence two we find out that his father had sold him to be a chimney sweeper. What a sad start to a poem! In sentence three we find out that he was walking around saying “weep, weep” seeing who needed there chimney sweeped and in sentence four that he slept on the soot he was sweeping from the chimneys.
Next, in the second Stanza we are introduced to a boy named Tom Dacre, who cried when his head, and that curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved. Tom was then told “Hush, Tom! Never mind it, for when your head’s bare, you know that the soot cannot spoil your white…