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This is a story about a lost child’s desire for a home. A little boy is abandoned by his father in a dark wet wood. He is very frightened because he knows he cannot find his own way home.

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The same little boy is then found and apprenticed to a chimney sweep. As he is too young to know who he is, he is given the name Tom Dacre. In a new dangerous environment, the little boy wants a family of chimney sweeps around him. He fantasizes that an angel has come down from Heaven to give him other apprentice sweeps to play with. He fantasizes that the angel tells him God is his father, and an older sweep reassures him that he will be well looked after if he does his duty.

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So the little boy remains a sweep. One night, he dreams about an ant who has lost her family. In the dream, the ant’s story has a happy ending. Other insects, which are possibly God in disguise, show the mother ant the way back home to her children. The little boy takes comfort from the idea that he might one day be reunited with his mother in Heaven.

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I chose these three plates because they all concern the importance of child-parent relationships. Separating “The Little Boy Lost” from “The Little Boy Found” makes it a much darker poem in which the action of the father can be interpreted in the worst possible way and the child is clearly deeply distressed by it. As the Songs of Innocence poems include many young children, it was easy to imagine that the little boys in “The Little Boy Lost” and “The Chimney Sweeper” were the same. In both, young boys with no father deeply desire to find one but the only way the chimney sweep can have one is from a dream. This dream may be intended as more than a pure fantasy, but I would suggest that the boy is coping with his hard situation in the only way he can, by using his imagination. Earthly fathers seem to be inadequate if not downright dangerous in Songs of Innocence, but children still long for them and the security and comfort a family brings. Placing “The Dream” after “The Chimney Sweep,” I hoped to make it sound more like just a dream and a way the chimney sweep has of coping. “The Chimney Sweep” shows the power of the imagination in children, but also how their imaginative lives can become more important to them than their real lives. Although their imaginative lives help them cope with their real lives, they also give them false hope. In reality, the little boy is probably going to be abandoned again as soon as he grows too big to climb a chimney. Together the poems conceptualize home as a state of being with loved ones rather than a place.

 

 

 

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