young boy in overalls and a hat walking with a chimney sweeping broom over his shoulder

The Chimney Sweeper

by William Blake

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Explain Blake's poem "The Chimney Sweeper" in "Songs of Experience," with emphasis on the line "And are gone to praise God and His priest and king."

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The narrator, a child whose parents have turned him into a chimney sweep, is “’weeping”, that is, lisping the street cry of the occupation, “sweep.”  Blake wants to criticize the hypocrisy behind the “belief” in Heaven, by contrasting the miserable life of the boy with the “promise of heaven”; Blake, by stating that the parents are in church praying  “to God and his priest and (his) king (who was head of the Anglican church)” instead of being kinder to the boy on earth, emphasizes this hypocrisy.  The boy’s natural joy – “because I am happy, & dance, & sing”—reflects the attitude of the Romantic poets toward this earthly existence.  They were not believers in spending this earthly existence wishing for a “heaven” concocted by the powers that be for their own ends.  This poem of “experience” takes on even more poignancy when compared with the poem of the same name in “Songs of Innocence.”      

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