The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)
by William Blake
The Color Black
Soot is black, and the chimney sweepers are black because of all that sooty soot they schlep around in. They are also black, however, in a different sense. Their innocence has been stolen, and they're facing a premature death because chimney sweeping is not exactly an office job if you know what we mean. Black, in this poem, isn't just a color. It is also a symbol of everything that is bad about chimney sweeping specifically, and child labor in general.
- Line 4: The speaker says he sweeps chimneys and sleeps in soot. Soot is here a metaphor for the poor quality of the child's life and for the way in which chimney-sweeping dominates his life.
- Lines 11-12: Tom sees a few of his friends and thousands of others in "coffins of black." "Locked" is here a metaphor for the ways in which children were forced to work a job that killed their childhood. They're stuck. There's no getting out.
- Line 21: The speaker and Tom get up "in the dark." While this refers to the time of day, "dark" is also a metaphor for their dark and miserable lives. Folks, we hate to say it, but there's no light at the end of the tunnel for these kiddos.