In Blake's day, it was quite common for his contemporaries to venerate the Industrial Revolution, to regard it as an unalloyed good driving Great Britain to ever more dizzying heights of progress and prosperity. Very few people, if any, were prepared to consider that not everyone benefitted from this period of rapid economic expansion, and that indeed there many in the country who were considerably worse off, both spiritually and economically, as a result of industrialization.
William Blake, however, was a staunch critic of industrialization and the damaging effect it had on the most vulnerable members of society. In “The Chimney Sweeper” poems he concentrates on the appalling treatment meted out to child laborers forced to perform dirty, degrading work for a pittance simply in order to stave off starvation.
In the Songs of Innocence poem, Blake introduces us to a small boy sold into the chimney sweep trade by his father before he was barely old enough to talk. We get a sense here that the boy's father was also a victim of industrial society in that he was compelled to put his son out to work in order to spare himself and his family from outright destitution.
The boy in the poem, like so many of his fellow chimney sweeps, is denied a childhood by his harsh working life. He has been deprived of his innocence at an early age, which Blake clearly regards as an absolute tragedy. The boy, and so many others like him, is a victim of industrialization, where people, including children, are treated as nothing more than economic commodities. Blake, in telling his story, hopes to alert his readers to what's going on in the dark underbelly of a society whose inevitable progress they unthinkingly take for granted.