William Blake - The Chimney Sweeper

A little black thing among the snow,
Crying ‘weep! ‘weep!’ in notes of woe!
‘Where are thy father and mother? say?’

‘They are both gone up to the church to pray.

 

Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil’d among the winter’s snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

 

And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,
Who make up a heaven of our misery.’

 

 

William Blake’s 1794 poem Songs of Experience: The Chimney Sweeper is a conversation with a child sweep that the narrator calls “a little black thing among the snow”. This contrasts the colours of soot and snow blackness but also shows the overwhelming bleakness of the sweep.

 

When the narrator asks the child where his parents are, he is told “They think they have done me no injury / And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King / Who make up a heaven of our misery.’

 

Blake accuses the state of ignoring the sufferings of the chimney sweeps and also hints at the comfort of the people for whom they do their work is also dependent on exploitation.