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The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)


by William Blake

Stanza 5 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 17-18

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;

  • Okay, now Tom's dream is getting just plain weird. The former chimney sweepers are naked and flying on clouds in the wind? Yowza.
  • But hey, at least they're burden free. Those bags they leave behind? They probably contain their chimney-sweeping equipment, which they won't need while sporting.
  • In that sense, we can think of these bags as an example of metonymy. These bags represent something that they're closely related to—the chimney-sweeping profession.
  • The thing to notice here is how free these boys are. They're not boxed in coffins or chimneys. Hey, they're not even boxed in by clothing. For once they get to act like the kiddos they are.

Lines 19-20

And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

  • Tom has a conversation with the angel, who tells him that, if he is good, God will be his father and he'll never lack joy.
  • Does God only act as a father to children who are good? That's what seems to be going on.
  • The word "want" means to desire, but it used to mean "lack." The angel tells Tom that he will never be deprived of joy if he's good (because God will be his father).
  • What's interesting here is that the angel, who freed all the boys, is talking specifically to Tom here. He gets singled out, whereas before, he was just one in a crowd of Neds and Jacks.

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