When my mother died I was young,
And my father sold me while yet my tounge,
Could scarcely cry “weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved; so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”
And so was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom asleeping, he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free,
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river , and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.
And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.
William Blake (1757-1827)
The small narrator of the poem portraits very effectively the miserable life of an 18th century chimney sweepers. In that period 4 or 5 years old boys were sold to the master sweepers by their parents. After 7 years they became too large to go up those small and narrow chimneys. It means that after this time, not only it was difficult to find a job, but also they were physically unable to work because, their feet twisted and deformed and their eyes and lungs were damaged also during this time.
The poet uses dramatic irony in order to make his ideas much more effective. The small boy is telling us that when he was sold by his father, he was too young to shout the street cry “SWEEP” properly or correctly ,but the term “WEEP” indirectly suggests that child’s unhappy miserable life and all of his pain and sufferings.
The children were kept as if they are animals. Their living and working conditions were terrible. They got up early and worked until about noon. They carried heavy bags of soot to the sellers.
The chimneys were very narrow and dark, so Tom, the new sweeper who is afraid of climbing up and going into that narrow and dark place, naturally dreams of being locked up in a black coffin.
To be a good boy in Tom’s situation means to be a good sweeper and staying out of trouble. Even the language of the Angel reminds us of the masters’ tone of speech. It shows that Tom has no other choice, since there is nobody else to care for Tom he must be content with the joy that he finds in his dream!
Doing one’s duty here means going up a chimney without having to be forced and the harm means punishment. To Tom the important thing is avoiding the punishment but both the reader and the poet knows that by avoiding this harm Tom accepts another greater damage. After 7 years he will be an invalid child!
The poet shows the world as it appears to the limited point of view of naive and innocent child who believes what he is told by his elders. In this poem the poet uses DRAMATIC IRONY to criticize much more effectively the society and government for being so indifferent to children’s awful conditions.
Now! after a life time from 18 century up to now in 21 century what is changed about child labor??? we know every where even in developed countries children were abused in so many different ways.please help them.