The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)
Stanza 3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
- At the beginning of the final stanza, the chimney sweeper continues his sad story.
- He says that his parents think they haven't done him any harm because he still happy, and dances, and sings.
- The chimney sweeper doesn't seem very happy, or very tuneful; maybe his parents don't realize that his "song" is made up of the notes of woe.
- Since these lines don't rhyme, we can probably bet that this stanza will follow the ABAB rhyme scheme set up in the second stanza.
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."
- The chimney sweeper again tells us that his parents have gone to church, where they "praise God and his priest and king."
- Well that sounds nice enough, right?
- Right. But then he goes on to tell this passer-by (our speaker) that this dynamic trio makes up "a heaven of our misery."
- Okay, that doesn't sound so nice. But what does the phrase "make up a heaven of our misery" really mean?
- Does it mean that God and his priest and king make the chimney sweeper's misery a little less miserable by adding a dose of heaven to it? We don't think so.
- Or does it mean that God, his priest, and his king enjoy themselves at the kids' expense? In other words—they're all happy-go-lucky while the kid toils in their chimneys?
- Or does it mean that God, his priest, and his king think there's a heaven because they assume that these little chimney-sweeping kiddos are totally happy with their lousy lot (maybe because they dance and sing), when in fact they're totally miserable?
- It's a tricky line, for sure, but in any case, one thing is certain: this little boy is implicating God, the church, and the government in his suffering. And his parents, too, for that matter.
- He may be a kid, but he definitely has some strong opinions. And we think he might be acting as William Blake's mouthpiece here. Blake uses the kid's words to blame these social institutions—religion, the church, government, family—for treating these children as slaves.