William Blake was religious artist and poet who lived in the nineteenth century. Blake was one of the romantic poets, writing during the French and American revolutions in 1780. Romantic poets believed that people should be free to follow their own desires in order to be happy. Blake was very visionary writer he talked about God angels coming in his dreams and visions. He translates these experiences into his poems. However Blake dislikes institutions such as the church and formal religion, the government and the royal family.
Blake believed that people should have open marriages and should enjoy sex. Society and church taught people that sex was sinful and wrong, whereas Blake believed that sex and desire is a connection to God and spirituality. Blake was especially frustrated with the church; he thought that the church was controlling people, especially the poor and working classes. These institutions would teach that although poor may be poor and unhappy in this life, if they do not rebel they will be able to go to heaven and be rewarded. This was seen by Blake as a form of brain washing.
Blake demonstrated his views in his collections of poems called the songs of the innocence and songs of the experience. In the songs of the innocent Blake compellingly presents his views on the hypocrisy and corruption of the society. Essentially, the chimney sweeper conveys the theme of how the corruption of society has led to the destruction of the innocence of the children. Blake successfully presents this theme through the effective use of the words, which can help portray the theme, mood and the tone of the poem. In this case, Blake effectively employs the words in order to portray the corruption that exists within society, while also portraying the innocence of the children that are victims of this injustice.
The corruption of society is a significant element of the theme of the poem which is effectively depicted through particular words and their connotations. The first essential choice of words is present in the little 'The chimney sweeper'. A chimney sweeper is associated with an individual that cleans the dirt out of the chimneys. Within context of this poem, the chimney sweeper represents the children that are forced by society to sacrifice their innocence for the sake of society. They are therefore forced with an unfair responsibility bought upon the faults of others. The corruption of society is further exemplified when Blake writes, "you know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair". The children are also associated with experience. The result is a portrayal of a child wise beyond their years due to the difficult life of labour that they have suffered.
An essential line which further depicts the theme of corruption reads, "And my father sold me while yet my tongue, could scarcely cry weep weep weep". In this example Blake skilfully employs the word "weep!" to establish a variety of effects. Firstly, the word weep, creates a tone of sorrow and gloom. Therefore the reader is influenced to feel sorry for this child and therefore the poem has a much more resonating effect on the reader. In addition, the word "weep" is also used in order to portray the child's innocence based on the fact that the child is still too innocent to correctly pronounce the true intent of his words, "sweep". The idea that a father would sell his own innocent child to a life of labour is used intently by Blake in order to further establish the theme of the corruption existent within society.
One thing that is spread through both of his poems is the topic of religion.
From the songs of experience, the chimney sweep excluded by God of the church, which has lead, him to not believe in God anymore. Blake voices this poem not as chimney sweeper, but a passer by who talks to him.
The songs of innocence and experience according to Ben Wilkinson:
"... the poems through the book explore the complex relationship between meaning and morality, the often blurred lines between the two contrary states of innocence and experience, as well as persuasive and widespread corruption of the church and of the state of the decline of sociability or 'brotherhood'., and of the dwelling of our sensory perceptions through the inevitable 'fall' from 'innocence'. (Wilkinson B,2007) (Social criticism and concern in Blake's songs of 'Innocence and experience').
I think that both poems are emotional and sad. In the songs of innocence, the innocence is more upsetting and depressing. The experience emphasises the fearful selfishness of the human heart, and the confusion that grows from attempts to rationalise this selfishness. Blake's poetry reveals an extraordinary timeless experience because of its incredible ability to adapt to our times. The struggle between good and evil is continuing human problems which is not about to be resolved.
Both poems are complete opposites of one another. Clearly Blake has a political purpose in these poems.