The well-known poem “The Chimney Sweeper” is narrated by one of the kids who sweep chimneys. He tells us about himself and his friend, Tom Dacre. They both work as chimney sweepers. After a brief introduction, the narrator tells about Tom’s strange dream, which involved flying angels, chimney sweepers in coffins and other weird things. At the end of the poem, the boys wake up from the dream and go on to sweeping chimneys; like they always do.
William Blake decided to write a poem about chimney sweepers because he felt bad for the real children who had to do that job. He wrote a lot about injustice, and this poem is a vivid example of children’s exploitation. It is known that chimneys can get extremely dirty, and back in the day people had to climb the chimney and scrub them from the inside to clean. However, not everyone was perfect for this job. To fit in the chimney, one had to be very small, so, unfortunately, kids were made to clean the chimneys from the inside. Some kids were only four or five years old, and they still had to perform this horrible and hard task. Those kids were mostly orphans or paupers, and there was an adult who was supposed to take care of them while they cleaned the chimneys.
This was a very difficult task because the children were always dirty; they bathed once a week and were covered in soot. It was also very dangerous, and there were cases when kids stuck and suffocated inside the chimneys. They got bruised or burned on a regular basis. Soot was also very dangerous for their health, and as they were constantly exposed to it, some of the kids got cancer.
This job was given to those, who could not stand up for themselves. Those kids were treated horribly, and there was no one who could protect them. William Blake felt very sorry for those kids, whose childhood and health were taken away. Their innocence was destroyed by mean adults, who only cared about themselves.
His poem was published in 1789, and it brought attention to the problem of child labor all over the world. Nowadays, this problem may not be as acute as it was in 18th century England; still we have to be aware that the cases of child labor still exist, especially in third world countries.