Thanks to this poem we can better analyse Blake’s CRITICISM.

This poem is a vivid, crude and at the same time VISIONARY representation of London.

The speaker is the poet, and we are guided by him through a realistic and tragic metaphoric walk through “each charter’d street” of London.

We have an urban setting that can reminds us of Dickens’s novels, but

Blake wants to denounce the early effects of the Industrial Revolution.

London, in fact, is “chartered” that is to say abused by commercial profits.

This view upon London wants to show us a conflicting reality, where OPPRESSORS and OPPRESSES live in two different worlds that never meet but in EXPLOITATION of the ones on the others.

The author’s aim is to develop a growing attack to his society and to this exploitation.

His criticism is directed towards the most important social INSTITUTIONS:




These institutions also represent the oppressor’s category.

CHURCH frightens, or, better, terrifies (“appalls”) each Chimney-sweeper (the exploited-children class).

Blake speaks of a “black’ning Church”.

The Church is blackning literally because of pollution smoke, but metaphorically Blake wants to communicate that this institution is falling behind with time, it is not modern and, instead of reassuring people, it frightens them.

MONARCHY is another evil of society. Kings make wars and guiltless people have to sacrifice themselves: “the hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood down Palace walls”.

The last attacked institution is the MARRIAGE; the marriage is threatened by the “Harlot’s curse” that “blasts the new born Infant’s tear”.

-Harlots (prostitutes)
can represent the category of oppressed.

Eleonora Zuolo, 5L - 2002/'03

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The Chimney Sweeper

AGE: 1757-1827

Even if he lives in the Preromantic period, he's considered the first real Romantic poet.


* He spent his whole life in London, earning his living as a painter and engraver.

* He was a mystic who lived much of his life among his world of visions and spiritual communications.


* He had no faith in reason as the organizer of human sensations, which he despised, because they didn’t allow the soul to come into contact with eternity. He thus denied the sensible world and refused to see things as they appear to us, searching the prototypes in them, the eternal ideas concealed under a deceiving surface.

* World of symbols which, translated into poetry, makes it difficult to understand.


- Childhood

- Social criticism

- Human concern

-imagination: the real external world is created by the internal mind.
-language: very simple (He used a lot of repetitions, regular stress) but it

represented a complex symbology.
Imagery: Visual artist; he wrote in a very clear way, using very meaningful images.
-Social criticism: he was the first real SOCIAL CRITIC, he attacked all the most
important Institutions of his time (Church, King, etc.)


¨ Songs of Innocence

¨ Songs of Experience

¨ The Prophetic Books


- Dedicated to childhood

- Through the mouths of little children, they express the poet’s feeling of piety and joy.

- Simple language


- The poet searches into the darker reaches of man’s existence.

- Difficult language


§ Man was born innocent (Songs of Innocence) ; this innocence is a gift.

§ Growing up he meets experience (Songs of experience)

§ Only after overcoming experience (also helped by poetry) man can be really innocent (<-gained, aware innocence)
§ Poetics of the opposites

Does the Eagle know what is in the pit;

Or wilt thou go ask the Mole?

Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod,

Or Love in a golden bowl?”

(W.Blake, Prophetical Books)

L’Aquila sa cosa c’è nell’Abisso;

O lo andrai a domandare alla Talpa?

Può la Saggezza stare in una verga d’argento,

O l’Amore in una coppa d’oro?

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----------------------Read the poem

--------> From: "Songs of Innocence" (First version)

* Layout: 6 4-line-stanzas

* Subject: social theme (children at work)

* Content:There are two worlds: real (1,2,6 stanzas) and unreal (3,4,5 stanzas)

1. How he became a chimney sweeper (the father sold him)

2. His friends

3. Tom’s dream: a thousand of chimney sweepers in coffins of black

4. An angel opens the coffins and the children begin to play and laugh

5. All these children naked and white go to heaven

6. Tom’s wakes up. The morning is cold, but he’s happy.

PRESENCE of HOPE (if they do their duty, they will gain heaven).

----------------------Read the poem-------------------------
---------> From: "Songs of Experience"(Second version)

* Layout:3 4-line-stanzas
* Subject: the chimney sweeper
* Content:
Here, the only aspect represented is the REAL WORLD. There are nor dreams or hopes. In this poem, the SOCIAL CRITICISM becomes harder. In fact, here, the author attacks the FAMILY, but also the two most important English Institutions: the ESTABLISHED CHURCH and the CROWN.

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--------------------Read the poem

THE LAMB (Songs of Innocence)

*Layout: 2 10-line-stanzas: a question and an answer, - WHO MADE THEE? - alternate couplets

* Speaker: a child

* Subject: the lamb (innocence).

* Parallelism: child – lamb, lamb- Lamb of God (Christ)

The language is simple, nursery-rhyme-like, repetitive, rich in devices as alliteration, assonance and rhyme.

*Layout: 6 4-line-stanzas , alternate couplets
* Subject: the tiger, that symbolises violence, force, intelligence.

The creation of the tiger was a daring act. The tiger (experience) had been created by God like the lamb (innocence):

·In the first stanza there is the same question we saw in "The Lamb": the question concerns the creator of the two animals: in the first poem the answer was given in the second part of the poem; instead in "The Tiger" the poet is unable to answer the question as he can't understand why a good creator, as God, could create both good and evil.
·In fact the tiger represents the presence of evil through experience; Blake's thought is that the man has to fight against the experience-evil to reach a new aware innocence, which is the only possibility of salvation.
·The language is much more complex and there are mythological references.

By Alice Agostini

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from “Songs of Experience, 1794

I wandered thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every black’ning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new born Infant’s tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.