In William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper, what are some examples of sensory language?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Sensory language appeals to the senses and is used by William Blake in The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Innocence to ensure that he engages with the reader through vocabulary that appeals to the senses which are touch, sight, smell, taste and hearing or sound. By mainly using sight and sound, Blake can ensure that the reader makes an emotional connection with the boys.

In the first verse, we experience the sounds of the boy as he cries, "Weep!Weep!" This is emphasized by the visual image (sight) of the boy sleeping "in soot." Perhaps the reader can even feel the effects of sleeping in these conditions. Blake uses this language throughout to great effect. The reader also hears the narrator whisper to Tom Dacre and can imagine the gentle tone- "Hush, Tom!" - feeling tenderness for this boy. 

The visual images are further enhanced through sensory language (sight) when the metaphor of the "coffins of black," is used to reveal the desperate plight of these boys. The image is quite dark and the mood is somber.  After this, the more hopeful tone of the fourth verse is intensified by the sight of the boys- freed from life as they know it, free to go "leaping, laughing..and wash in a river..." The reader can perhaps feel the relief of teh water as it washes over the boys and allows them to "rise upon clouds." The senses are aroused further when the reader imagines the boys "happy and warm," presumably safe for now, as long as they do their jobs properly. 

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