The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)
The persona, a chimney sweeper, recounts his story – his mother died when he was very young, and his father sold him as a chimney sweep.
He tells of his friend, Tom, who is visited by an angel in a dream; and is promised liberation if he is 'good'.
When Tom awakens, he goes to work happy, in spite of the cold...
Two Key Interpretations:
A true vision of the joy available to the innocent
A criticism of religion and exploitation of innocence
Language and Tone
My tongue could scarcely cry “'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep” - mispronunciation of 'sweep' highlights the child's age; unintentionally turned into a plaintive cry. Onomatopoeic quality almost like birdsong. Also: IRONY.
“when your head's bare … the soot cannot spoil your white hair” - direct speech; the persona's kindness
“thousands of sweepers, ****, Joe, Ned and Jack” - conventional names... both personal and impersonal.
Repetition of 'white' – purity.
'So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm' – Shift to third person plural: almost suggests that the persona is quoting a sermon. Furthermore – the conditional is counter to the idea that God's love is unconditional.
Similarly – an angel tells Tom 'if he'd be a good boy, …