The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)
How we cite our quotes:
"Where are thy father and mother? Say!"—
"They are both gone up to the church to pray" (3-4)
Even though the chimney sweeper's parents seem to be innocently attending church, this really looks like abandonment to the modern eye. The child is out in the cold, alone, and apparently crying, all because the parents think church is more important. But did they come to that conclusion themselves, or is society giving them those priorities?
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe (7-8)
The parents really don't look too good here; they clothe and instruct their child, but they clothe him in the "clothes of death" and only teach him about sadness. In a way, the parents have abandoned their parental duties, as well as their child.
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery" (11-12)
The sweeper reminds us again where his parents are, and this time suggests that the church and state have also abandoned the children for whom they're responsible. They're so concerned with their own heaven they've forgotten their children.