How are Blake's poems, "The Chimney Sweeper," "London," and "The Garden of Love," similar?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Blake''s poems "The Chimney Sweeper," "London," and "The Garden of Love" address the theme of death through combined use of religious symbolism with dark and morbid imagery. 

Blake's use imagery relating to death is the most prevalent similarity between the poems.  In "The Chimney Sweeper," young Tom dreams that all the sweepers are "locked up in coffins of black" (12).  The young chimney sweeper boy fears for the fate of his fellow workers and imagines them all dying.

The black-faced chimney sweepers find mention in Blake's poem "London," a grim portrayal of the sounds of city life.  In "London," Blake uses the metaphor of a "hearse" for marriage; in this poem even joyful events are linked with death (10). , Blake represents the bustle of city life in London, instead of being equated with excitement or invigoration, as the woes of people dying.

 "The Garden of Love" uses symbolism and imagery to represent death as well.  The speaker finds his beloved garden "filled with graves, [a]nd tomb-stones where flowers should be" (9-10). 

All three of these poems also incorporate religious symbolism.  "The Chimney Sweeper" has an angel "who had a bright key" that liberates the chimney sweepers from death; this poem is more optimistic than "London" or "The Garden of Love."  "London" captures city life darkly, with no absolution or hope from the church, and the "chimney sweeper's cry every blackening church appalls" (9-10).  The city appears to have corrupted the church, causing it to "blacken," imagery the reader relates to probable pollution.  Like "London," "The Garden of Love" also examines a bleak change in the church, showing the reader how the friendly garden Chapel has been locked and replaced by dark, uninviting priests.  The speaker in "The Garden of Love" finds religion and God to be inaccessible, for "the Gates of this Chapel were shut" and replaced by "Priests in black gowns" (5,11).

"The Chimney Sweeper," "London," and "The Garden of Love," are all interrelated through their use of imagery of death and religious symbolism.