Tag Archive: Blake Archive

“The Aftermath”

“The Chimney Sweeper” (Songs of Innocence and Experience)

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.

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.


“The Chimney Sweeper” (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.”


Both versions of the poem “The Chimney Sweeper” are tragic; except the version from Songs of Innocence, amidst its sadness, tugs at one’s heart because it reveals the hope the narrator -the little boy- has in regards to his terrible circumstance.  In the first stanza we learn that he was sold into labor as a chimney sweeper, and apparently quite young as he indicates he could barely understand what was going to happen to him: “And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’”  In the following stanzas, the narrator seems to have taken on a parental role towards the other chimney sweepers, attempting to comfort them as they perhaps are just entering that occupation; while, the narrator is, at this point, already well versed with the job duties.  Some of his words of comfort explain what sort of things they had to endure, such as the shaving of their hair, and/or it could indicate the toll -hair loss- chimney sweeping was taking on them.  He tells the other little boy, “‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’”  As the poem continues, the narrator’s voice returns to the reader, conveying wishful thinking, as they indicate that all the tragedy and darkness will once again return to light and hope; unfortunately, it also reveals that such a reality, is in fact not one.  It would only happen when they die, and have gone to heaven.

And, thus death is what is now brought into the picture with the second version of the poem, as in death of hope.  However, the narrator -a little boy’s voice, once again- is responding to another’s voice who has, essentially, asked him where his parents are.  The voice then replies with a bitter response.  The child seems angry and betrayed by his parents whom -as told in the original poem, first stanza- have sold him off as a chimney sweeper.  His anger seems also seems to be also towards God, as he says, “And are gone to praise God and his Priest and King,Who make up a heaven of our misery.”  One could infer that, as opposed to the first version of the poem, where the narrator tries to instill a glimmer of hope in the other children’s minds, that a vast amount of time must have passed up to this point.  It seems as though the act of dreaming or wishing or praying is no longer an option.  He has come to accept his doom.  On the other hand, it could also represent the moment in which he was originally sold off; where he too is full of grief, like the “Tom” he tries to comfort in the first poem.

-Marcy Martinez


What a Beautiful World

The following story line reveals the “Innocence” of a child’s understanding, or lack thereof.  While in some of the writings I wrote the mother as the speaker, it is to be inferred that the child is listening, but again with a naivety.  Blake wrote much about the innocence of children in “Songs of Innocence.”  In one of the pictures I chose, the mother and child are black.  I chose to place this here, aside both other depictions where the families are white, in order to show that the black child has some sense of his place in the world, but yet still may not totally know yet.  On the other hand, while the white mothers and children will experience a different perspective of life, I still feel that the white children, too, will be entering a world of chaos, which Blake reveals in the other book. -Marcy Martinez


My child, how shall I explain.
It seems that you understand the vain.
It seems as though you know your place,
It seems as if you know your name.
How can I explain to thee,
That lines and divides shall conquer we.
But still I shall guide thee with utter strength.
Leading you to a special rank
To me, your shade of skin
Is beyond a beauty.
And God only sees, what should He.


My sight is pure, so far I see.
No corruption, only smiles of teeth.
No idea of what color means.
No clue of the difference
between poor and elite.
My mother’s eyes, happy to be.
She carries me, with liberty.
She embraces me, with a loving touch.
She shows me the world,
But not too much.
Im happy in this life of mine.
Sunshine, skies, and butterflies.
No sense of ill or woes,
Just living a life, knowing
Where I shall go.


Looking down upon these two,
Feeling blessed for what they do.
They shall bask in the light of the sun
And their skin.
They shall live in a world
Where they shall not sin.
These two will go onto know it all.
Through seasons, survive,
Winter, Spring, and Fall.
All a while, gaining a sense of knowledge.
Looking forward to the day,
They make it to college.

For the post next Wednesday (1/31), students will choose 3-4 plate designs from The Songs of Innocence (from any of the editions accessible in the Blake Archive, listed under “Friends & Links” below) to create your own story about this compilation of “songs.”  You will arrange these plates in any order that helps illustrate your specific narrative, and this order need not follow any of the arrangements found in the various copies of The Songs of Innocence.  In other words, set your imagination free and become a true Genius!

Insert these designs into your post and then write a short paragraph or two that interprets the embedded narrative that threads your arrangement and justifies your particular ordering.  Ideally, your story should address the larger themes, images, and motifs that define The Songs of Innocence as a whole.  Place the post under the category “Innocence, Eden, and Childhood” and don’t forget to create specific and engaging tags.  And most importantly, please HAVE FUN!!!

The post is due this Wednesday, 1/31.


Instructions on inserting images into your blog post:

1. Find the image you want on the Blake Archive under the “Illuminated Books” tab.  Feel free to use “The Songs of Innocence” or the joint “The Songs of Innocence & Experience,” or both, of whatever edition (or combination thereof) you choose.

2. Right click on the image and go to “Save picture as.”  Save it in your laptop or PC.

3.  In your post, click on “Add Media” (in the upper right), then “upload files,” and then “select files.”  Choose the desired image from your picture files.  Under the “Attachment Details” side window you will select your specifications (make sure your images are large and easy to view) and then click “insert into post” once you are done.