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The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)

by William Blake

Death Theme

The speaker of "The Chimney Sweeper" describes the chimney sweeper as a "black thing." Black is the color of death and other bad things. The chimney sweeper is well aware of the death-like quality of his life as well; he tells the speaker that his parents dressed him in the "clothes of death." Does that mean that in a way, his parents have murdered him? Metaphorically speaking, anything's possible.

Questions About Death

  1. What does the speaker mean by "clothes of death"?
  2. Does this kid seem aware that he might be headed towards an early death at the hands of chimney-sweeping? Do you think his parents are aware? Or the speaker?
  3. Does this poem seem more concerned with death than its counterpart in Songs of Innocence?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Even though the child isn't actually dead, he's essentially dead to his parents, who would rather go to church; by lying alone in the snow, however, he also might die for real.

Even if we are close to death, there are ways to feel alive; the chimney sweeper, for example, dances and sings.

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