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The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)


by William Blake

Analysis: Sound Check

This poem is this close to being a nursery rhyme. Except instead of friendly animals and sunshine we get, uh, sooty chimneys and bald, overworked kids. Imagine your mama singing this one to lull you to sleep. Or, you know, don't.

Those sing-songy rhythms (for more, see our section on "Form and Meter") combined with those neat little end-rhymes make this poem sound almost like a little ditty. And hey, isn't the title of this collection Songs of Innocence?

But how in the world are we supposed to reconcile this one's Raffi-esque sound with its Big Bummer subject matter? Well we think that's just it—we're not supposed to reconcile it. We're supposed to appreciate the contrast.

The sing-songy sound of the poem merely highlights the sadness at its heart. The light sounds and perfect rhymes strike yet another note of irony in the devastating poem. This is not a subject to sing songs about. But how else is a tiny tot supposed to cope?

Maybe little orphan Annie was right—it's a hard knock life. So you may as well sing songs about it.

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