Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
- The dismal picture in Tom's dream doesn't last. And thank goodness.
- Now, an angel shows up with a "bright key" and lets all the sweepers go free.
- This could be a reference to Matthew 16:19, the verse in which Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Maybe Peter's that angel, coming down to give these kiddos a much-deserved ticket to the Promised Land.
- In any case, the imagery here is a nice, uplifting contrast to those creepy, suffocating, black coffins. But still—the imagery here is all about death.
- So is he saying that death is the only way out of this awful, sweepy mess?
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
- After the sweepers were set free (in Tom's dream), they went and played. Sounds good to Shmoop. These kids definitely deserve some me time, and what better way to get it than frolicking on the plain, by the river, and in the sun?
- Why do the sweepers now "shine" in the sun? Are they shining like the key, or is this just the reflection of the water on the bodies? Are they in heaven, glowing like little angels?
- Does this have something to do with how they appear after they have been freed from black coffins and chimney sweeping?