The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)
How we cite our quotes:
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black. (11-12)
The children are locked up in coffins when they should be out playing and enjoying their childhood. It doesn't get much more horrifying than that. It's like these tykes are doomed from the start. How can you have a childhood, when you know you'll come to an early end?
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun. (15-16)
Ugh, what a bummer. Tom's dream shows us what innocence should look like, and yet the only place it exists in the poem is in his mind. In a way, innocence is just a fantasy, something to hope for, and nothing more, at least for the children in the poem. It is a dream, in more senses than one.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind; (17-18)
The nakedness and whiteness of the children suggests innocence, because they're in their totally pure, natural state. But there's something weird about that rhyme on "behind" and "wind." The fact that it isn't perfect suggests that there is something imperfect about this picture of innocence. Maybe that imperfection comes from the fact that this isn't real at all; it's a pipedream.