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The Chimney Sweeper- From Songs of Innocence
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The Chimney Sweeper- From Songs of Innocence

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  1. “The Chimney Sweeper" is the title of two poems by William Blake, published in Songs of Innocence in 1789 and Songs of Experience in 1794. The poem "The Chimney Sweeper" is set against the dark background of child labour that was prominent in England in the late 18th and 19th century. At the age of four and five, boys were sold to clean chimneys, due to their small size. These children were oppressed and had a diminutive existence that was socially accepted at the time. In the earlier poem, a young chimney sweeper recounts a dream had by one of his fellows, in which an angel rescues the boys from coffins and takes them to a sunny meadow; in the later poem, an apparently adult speaker encounters a child chimney sweeper abandoned in the snow while his parents are at church or possibly even suffered death where church is referring to being with God.

  2. onomatopoetic device to represent an alarm, like repetitive chirping birds do in nature to warn other birds of predators or danger. So young cant say sweep During Blake’s time there were very few instances where someone’s head was forcibly shaven. It was a practice reserved for prisoners The Chimney Sweeper- From Songs of Innocence could be saying that they are washing away the sins inflicted on them by others. Tom has accepted his fate and has fallen asleep – or he may have been so physically and mentally traumatised, that he fell asleep exhausted. 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 our brushes to work. Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm; So if all do their duty they need not fear harm. When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry 'weep! '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 he was quiet; and that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight, - That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black. By referencing the reader’s chimney, Blake speaks to the original audience and lays blame for the plight of the narrator at the feet of the reader. purity and innocence

  3. onomatopoetic device to represent an alarm, like repetitive chirping birds do in nature to warn other birds of predators or danger. So young cant say sweep "The Chimney Sweeper," from Songs of Experience 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 smiled 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 Mother and father can mean king and country Black soot. Black is for funerals

  4. Poetry analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, by William Blake • Despite the apparent similarity in several literary devices and the subject of William Blake’s two poems named “The Chimney Sweeper”, the clear opposition in tone and theme make these two poems very different from each other.

  5. The poems both start out with the rhyme scheme of AABB (butter, flutter. Ham , sam). This gives the impression that they are both happy poems which we later find is not true. • The point of view in both of these poems is a child who is a chimney sweeper. Being a chimney sweeper as a child in this era most likely means you have lost your innocence of childhood a long time ago. As a result the speaker is a child, who speaks with the firmness and intelligence of an adult. This shows the brutal work that child chimney sweepers had to go through and how if affected them.

  6. The alliteration in these two poems is very similar. “I sweep & in soot I sleep.” is an example from the first poem. “Crying ” ‘weep, ‘weep,” in notes of woe!” is an example from the second poem. The placing of these lines in the beginning of the poems makes it seem as if the speaker is neutral on the subject and that it does not matter when it truly does to the speaker. With these similarities in literary devices, the two poems seem to be very similar; however, the truth is besides the subject and the literary devices that are similar, there are really no other similarities in these two poems.

  7. after the first stanza in the second poem, the rhyme scheme changes to CDCD (pearl, job. Unfurl, mob). This change reflects that the second poem has turned to a much darker tone while the first poem continues to sound more optimistic. • The diction of the two poems also contributes to the evident difference in the poems. In the first poem, the diction seems happier or optimistic while in the second poem the diction seems darker or satirical. An example from the first poem is, “Hush, Tom! Never mind it, for when your head’s bare, You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.” The diction in that line makes a sad situation more optimistic. An example from the first poem is, “They clothed me in the clothes of death, And taught me to sing the notes of woe.” The diction in that line makes a sad situation even worse

  8. .The second poem also carried a repetition of the phrase, “notes of woe.” The first poem did not carry any meaningful repetition. The repetition in the second poem reaffirmed the darker tone of the poem. • The lack of repetition in the first poem seems to give off a theme of: if you just keep going it will be better. These literary devices all help us to start to understand the tone of the poems, but the tones themselves need to be analysed to truly understand them.

  9. tone • The first poem has a tone of optimistic or light hearted. An example of this tone can be expressed in this line: “Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” • The second poem has a tone of dark or satirical optimism. An example of this tone can be expressed in this line: “And because I am happy, & dance &sing, They think they have done me no injury,”

  10. themes • the themes of the two poems are almost opposites. The theme of the first poem is along the lines of the idea that there is light at the end of the tunnel and if you just keep going you will be in a better place. An example of this theme is shown through the line, “And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, He’d have God for his father & never want joy.” • The theme of the second poem is more about the fact that there is not light at the end of the tunnel and we will be suffering for the rest of our lives. An example of this theme is shown through the line, “And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King, Who make up a heaven of our misery.”

  11. From Songs of Experience • .Rhyme Scheme = abababababab • The first stanza contains the following contrast: the chimney sweeper is working and covered in soot while mother and father have gone to church to pray. The chimney sweeper symbolisesthe plight of England's children (chimney sweeper was a horrible job done by children because they were small enough to fit in the chimney and clean it). Fathers and motherssymbolisesthose responsible for taking care of children, be it the church, the king, or adults in general. • The second stanza is a metaphor for taking a child from innocence "happy upon the heath" to a life of misery, "clothes of death." He's gone from "winters snow" to "notes of woe." • The third stanza denounces the hypocrisy of the upper classes for praising "God & Priest & King" while ruining the lives of children. • Theme- Those who allow children to live as miserable chimney sweepers are nothing more than hypocrites.

  12. Imagery and symbolism In The Chimney Sweeper, Blake uses several images and refers to related biblical ideas with which his contemporaries would be familiar with. Blake develops his own symbols in these poems as well as using established ones. He also refers to a Platonic belief that had become common among some Christians. • Lamb – A lamb is often associated with innocence and playfulness, whilst a child sweep has been exposed to cruel treatment. However, lambs are also associated with vulnerable sacrifices for human evil. • white hair – White is the colour associated with innocence and purity, which increases sympathy for a young life being defiled by its squalid conditions. He is reminding his readers either that a maltreated child still bears the image of God, or that there is something divinely human about the child. • coffins of black – The claustrophobic confines of grimy chimneys may have seemed like living coffins to their young occupants, many of whom lost their lives through their job. It also refers to the idea that bodies are dead things.

  13. Imagery and symbolism wash in a river – With poor sanitation and no running water, washing in a river represented a thorough clean, as well as evoking a pastoral idyll. It would also remind Blake's readers of the many biblical images of healing and of new life that are associated with rivers, for example: • The Christian symbolism of baptism as dying to the old way of life and rising to a new eternal life. Blake may be using the associations negatively, showing how the feeding of such imagery to the child has encouraged his escapist dream. • [child] - Underlying the poem, though the term is not used, is the fact that the speaker is a child. All Blake's associations with the image of the child are therefore in the background of the poem and affect our understanding of it. The fact that the word is not used means we have to remind ourselves that it is a child speaking. To their society, and to themselves, they are sweepers, not children; this is the core of their plight.

  14. Imagery and symbolism A green plain – Blake often refers to a green, usually the village green, or the use of the adjective, green, in a way intended to evoke the same associations: • The colour green is associated with growth, fertility and spring • Village greens were places of play and freedom. They represented the importance of play, and therefore of imagination, in human life • Village greens were not owned by anyone but were common land. They, therefore, represented another kind of freedom, freedom from the rule or demands of a landowner or authority figure. They were the opposite of ‘chartered' towns which were under the authority of their officials. When the children play on the green plain, all these