The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)
by William Blake
It's kind of surprising but there's a lot of music in this sad poem. We have two references to "notes of woe," and in the last stanza the chimney sweeper says he is happy and sings and dances—or at least people think he's happy because he sings and dances. Music thus refers both to misery ("notes of woe") but also to things that one can do to stave off sadness and comfort oneself. Which makes sense—there are sad songs, happy songs, and songs for just about every emotion in between.
- Line 2: The chimney sweeper is crying in "notes of woe."
- Line 8: The chimney sweeper says his parents "taught" him the "notes of woe." "Notes of woe" refers to the child's crying, but it is also a metaphor for his miserable life.
- Line 9: The chimney sweeper says he is happy and dances and sings. Song here symbolizes liveliness and happiness. But there's also some sad irony here, because the child's notes of woe only serve to make his parents—and society as a whole—think he's happy.
- Line 11: The parents are in church praising God; this "praise" might be a form of hymning or chanting.