The Chimney Sweeper (Experience)

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The Chimney Sweeper – Songs of Experience


The speaker sees a child chimney-sweep in winter miserably crying ‘Weep!'

  • He asks where the sweep's parents are. The child replies that they are praying in church.

  • Because he was happy and playful, they made him wretched. Because he is still able to be playful, they do not see what harm they have caused and so still praise God and the established social order of priest and King, whose idea of heaven is really dependent on the misery they have produced.

Two Key Interpretations:

  1. Most obviously, it is a protest against the condition of child sweeps and against the hypocrisy of the society that allows this exploitation.

  2. The poem may also symbolise the way in which the human mind has produced prohibitions and inhibitions regarding instinctual life and sexuality. These prohibitions are then transposed onto wider society. The mind creates an idea of God who is forever saying, ‘Thou shalt not', tying people up in laws and prohibitions.

Language and Tone

A little black thing ... crying 'weep! weep! In notes of woe!' -


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