The Chimney Sweeper – analysis
The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake is a short lyric evoking feelings and experiences of a young boy and his friends working as chimney sweepers.
It is a short poem of six quatrains, rhymed aa bb. The rhyme is mostly complete and masculine: key – free, run – sun. The only exceptions are: behind – wind, dark – work and warm – harm, which are incomplete rhymes.
The number of syllables in the lines varies from 8 to 12. Most of them has 11 syllables with a caesura after the 6th. Each line consist of 4 feet. The rhythm pattern is a combination of iambs, anapests and amphibrachs. So we can say that the metre is not regular all the time.
Eg. That thousand of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned and Jack,
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black.
The first stanza is full of alliteration and onomatopoeic sounds bearing resemblance to child’s cry. There are also assonances [aɪ] and [j] which appear in the middle of each line died, I, while yet, cry, I. The alliteration we find in the last line so, sweep, soot, sleep plays also an onomatopoeic role because the sound /s/ could be associated with a sound of sweeping a chimney. So the first stanza is very important for the poem.
There are two examples of inversion: And by came an Angel and Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run.
Two contrasting concepts - light and darkness, are expressed through the semantic stylistic devices.
- one simile between a light curly child’s hair and lamb’s fur: head, that curl’d like a lamb’s back
- epithets: white hair, bright key
- one metaphor: coffins of black
In fact the semantic stylistic devices are not used often in the poem as it is written in a simple form of child’s story.
The speaker in the poem uses exclamations weep! weep! (3rd stanza), quotes “Hush, Tom! Never mind it (…)” (2nd stanza), uses anaphors and typical for child’s unsophisticated language. The word ‘and’...