The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)


  • “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)” follows the morose perspective of a young chimney sweeper against the backdrop of a seemingly indifferent society.
  • The child, embodying the harsh realities of child labour and exploitation, serving as a stark critique of the industrial society of Blake’s time.


  • The Chimney Sweeper: The title itself is a powerful symbol. The child chimney sweepers are totally exploited by society, representing the harsh reality of child labour.
  • The Church: Symbolises the complicity of organised religion in perpetuating the oppression and exploitation of the innocent.


  • Loss of Innocence: The poem contrasts innocence with experience from the perspective of exploited innocent children.
  • Suffering and Industry: The harrowing accounts of the chimney sweepers reveal societal apathy and the dehumanising effects of industrialisation.
  • Critique of Organised Religion: Blake critiques religion’s role in enforcing suppressive societal norms and blessing exploitative practices.


  • Visual Imagery: “And because I am happy and dance and sing,/ they think they have done me no injury.” This presents a protean image of the child’s mind, veiled with a superficial joy that hides deeper pain and endurance.
  • Colour Imagery: The consistent images of black and white contrast the soot-covered sweeps with their innocence, further underlining societal divide and exploitation.

Rhyme and Meter

  • The poem adopts AABB, CCDD… rhyme scheme, adding simplicity and fluidity, yet jarring with the disturbing contents of the poem.
  • The trochaic meter, in a rhythmic musical quality akin to a song, further highlights the irony and contrast between content and form.


  • ‘Clothes of death’: This alludes to the hazardous job of chimney sweeping, often leading to their short, miserable lives.
  • ‘In notes of woe’: This image contrasts the musicality of child-like innocence with the melancholic reality of their lives, supporting the theme of Loss of Innocence.


  • Blake uses “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)” to expose grim realities of child labour in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Blake was vehemently opposed to the institution of the Church, and his harsh critique here reinforces his disdain and perceived hypocrisy.
  • Understanding the harsh realities of the industrial era, and the treatment of children, will add depth to your engagement with this poignant poem.

By analysing “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)”, one can gain insights into Blake’s potent critique of exploitative societal norms and the great injustice these norms imposed on helpless children. A comparative study with “The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Innocence)” will further enhance your understanding and appreciation of Blake’s dexterity with contrasting perspectives and his skillful subversion of traditional forms to press poignant social critiques.