In William Blake’s The Songs of Experience, the shift of tone and expression changed drastically from Blake’s The Songs of Innocence. The series of poems/songs in The Songs of Experience are less angelic and more religious. Perhaps, the contrast among innocence and experience explains the black and white dynamic that creates serious, creepy, sad, or joyous moods. In The Songs of Experience, I chose the poem “The Chimney Sweeper” because it demonstrated a cold awakening among all the other poems. “The Chimney Sweeper” discusses the loneliness and desperation of a child who seeks for his/her parents in a cold winter day. However, there’s no indication of mentioning a child who is lost and confused in the snow. There’s no real person to identify as the child. For example, “A little black thing among the snow: Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!” (pg. 35, Line 1-2) explains a presence that is crying, but doesn’t mention anything about a child. By excluding the names or people in the poem, it shows that children were nonvaluable, ignored, and mistreated by society. To refer to the child as a “thing” expresses the loss of innocence and the idea of experience. Indeed, the child is the product of a selfish, poor, and uncaring society. Most importantly, is the result of rejecting religious beliefs or the critique of the church itself.

However, “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Experience is different from “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Innocence. “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Innocence explains a more broad understanding of the inhumane conditions children lived in London. Yet, discusses the topic about religion, specifically God. It demonstrates the faith you should have in God and to behave good to be rewarded in heaven. In contrast, “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Experience rejects the notion of religion and targets the parents as delusional. For example, “And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King Who make up a heaven of our misery” (pg. 35, Line 11-12), while in The Songs of Innocence it states, “He’d have God for his father & never want joy” (pg. 18, Line 20). The difference of faith and believing in God changed profoundly within innocence and experience. On the one hand, “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Innocence believes that God is entitled to save you from hell if you behave well, while you’re still suffering on the poor living conditions of society. On the other hand, “The Chimney Sweeper” in The Songs of Experience antagonizes the church, prayers, and God. It discusses about the importance of religion, but critiques the praising it receives. These contrary poems mutually inform and interrupt each other to present an important transition in adulthood. From innocence to experience, one gets to realize the false illusions that have been taught within your lifetime and later on understand that many norms in society are socially constructed to control your life. In essence, when these two poems are read separately, it shows the transition of how innocence is manipulated and then blossoms into experience to depict the reality of life. Is Blake saying that childhood is a form of controlling society and affects adulthood in the long run?

-Priscilla Ortega