The Poems of William Blake
The Little Black Boy
The first line of the poem hits you like an unexpected boxer’s punch. Confusion falls on the mind of the reader because the author is white and not black. After a quick overview of the poem it becomes clear that Blake wanted to speak for those who have no voice. In this particular case, Blake was speaking in behalf of the Negro slaves. In this poem, Blake wanted his audience to realize that there is no wisdom to racism because deep down every human being are the same.
The author wanted to the reader to see that in the innermost core of human beings there is no significant difference. The true measure of a man or woman cannot be reconciled in the color of the skin. The true value of a human being is found in the soul. Therefore, if the character of a Negro slave is pristine white, then, there is not much difference between another person.
The author acknowledged equality; however, he also provided an explanation for the difference between blacks and whites. Upon closer examination of the following verses in the poem one cannot help but think if Blake was indeed in support for the emancipation of the slaves or the eradication of racism or segregation. A closer inspection of the words seems to argue that Blake wanted the white people to treat black people with respect and dignity. Nevertheless, Blake also wanted to express the need to defend the right of the white people when it comes to the services provided by Negro slaves.
The interesting aspect of the poem is the one wherein the author described the intense heat of the sun that creates sunburned faces. The idea that the author wants to convey to the readers is the fact that the Negro slaves are needed by the white people. But the more important insight is the fact that God created them for a purpose. In other words the black people were created to serve the white people. This may not sit well with black people. This is a controversial statement considering the fact that black people enjoy rights and privileges in the present time. However, this was Blake’s solution to the dilemma of having Negro slaves. It was the justification of the author to explain the fact that the white race was superior to the black race.
It was a difficult process to solve the dilemma of the existence of a superior race and an inferior race. Blake was ahead of his time when he tried to solve this problem. His solution was not ideal because he tried to justify it by saying that the existence of slavery was needed. Although this is an unacceptable solution, modern day black people must understand the context of the poem. At that time even the best minds cannot provide a decent solution to the problem. If they will free all the slaves or if they will not use slaves for manual labor, then, entire industries will collapse. People will go hungry and business will go bankrupt if Negro slaves were given freedom, and this was the main point of the author. Therefore, something has to be done in order to remedy the problem.
It is interesting to point out that at the end; the harmony of the two races was made possible through the use of a different perspective. Without a doubt the status of the black people were not the same as the white people. However, they were given a glimpse of the glory that awaits them. In other words, the subjugation of the black people served a higher purpose. They were also given hope that their sufferings are temporary.
The Chimney Sweeper
This poem is an attempt by the author to speak about social injustice. One has to consider the timeline of the creation of the poem. This poem was written during the time when there were no laws regarding child labor. Children were used because the cost of child labor was relatively cheaper than adults. It took a long time for people in the modern world to realize that children have the right to enjoy their childhood. It can be argued that the idea for children’s right to study is a new concept. In the past children were considered like property. The status of children in the eyes of men was the same when it comes to how they treated women. Children were utilized for the purpose of achieving a certain goal. In this poem the author expressed his lament with regards to the bitter experience of children in the labor market.
In order to survive the ordeal the main character in the narrative used his imagination to endure the struggles of working as a chimney sweeper. He imagined the day when others would come to help him work the dirty areas of the chimney. One of the more interesting aspects of the poem was when the protagonist imagined the rescue made by an angel. However, it was not the rescue of a heavenly being that strikes the reader, the emotionally powerful part was when the children were allowed to become children. They were allowed to play and frolic in the sun. It was heartbreaking for a parent or a sibling to read the lines when children were allowed to play outdoors. They were allowed to enjoy the beautiful flowers and trees. They were leaping and laughing and they were free as a bird. They were allowed to explore the world and they were allowed to roam, they were in a place that was far different from the dirty and claustrophobic chimney.
It is interesting to find out the ramifications or implications of the poem created by Blake. It is interesting to find out the kind of social consciousness that was created after he made the poem. It took not only imagination but courage to speak out in the way that he did. First of all, it is crucial to point out the type of mind needed to see this problem. One has to realize that the dilemma regarding child labor was the same as the dilemma that faced ancient and medieval societies when it comes to slavery. In other words, the entire economic system was depended on child labor.
It took courage and different mindset for someone who was immersed in a culture that encouraged and applauded the use of child labor. Blake’s poem and his publication of the poem can be comparable to the actions committed by abolitionists, the courageous and morally upright people who risked their lives, reputation and wealth to side with the truth.
There was no mention of the social ridicule that the author encountered because of his stance to speak against child labor. Those who were offended by his statements would have surely remarked derogatory statement to shame him. However, a close scrutiny of his other works will reveal that Blake continued to thread the same path. He was willing to talk about the plight of children in his era. He continued to speak out against the social evils created by the heartless utilization of innocent children in the labor market.
Due to the contribution of Blake the present day generation enjoyed the benefits of his labor. Schools were created to ensure that children are not spending their precious time doing something that does not contributed to their development. Strict rules were implemented to ensure that children did not become victims to unscrupulous people desiring only to a make a profit out of their feeble bodies. It is also important to point out the genius of Blake when he saw the negative impact of child labor in his homeland. Without a doubt there were calls for abolishing the abominable practice of child labor. However, these calls for abolition of child labor were muted by the logic of economics. People reasoned among themselves that they needed child labor to support key industries. However, Blake saw the future and he realized that an unhappy and tormented childhood will produce leaders that will do ten times more evil on the community.
This is another attempt by Blake to speak against the policies and the mindset of the officials and common people that has created abject poverty in the land. The focus of the argument was the presence of poor children. He did not provide details however; it was easy to see the impact of poverty on the little ones. The children were indeed reduced to a pitiful state.
The author was also referring to how the parents or guardians were treating the little ones. He was probably talking about the children in orphanages and those that were sold because their parents cannot afford to pay off their debts. The curious thing about the poem was the idea that the society or the community attempted to mask the truth about the sad plight of the children. There were rituals and other activities that tried to soften the image of poverty.
The author pointed out that the children are supposed to grow in a place that is bathed with sunshine and blessed with resources. Blake talks about the need to solve hunger and poverty. The author speaks against the abuses hurled against children. It is interesting to note that this message was created in a time when there was little or no significant attention given to children. It must be made clear that the adults faced great problems. Without a doubt there were shortages and the adults cannot find decent work. However, the problems of the adults were not considered as worthy excuses from the minds of the author. He wanted them to solve the problem regardless of the difficulties that they were facing.
When Blake penned this poem he was doing a heroic act. In other words, he did something that only a few dared to accomplish. He did something that was ridiculed and probably made him a social outcast. It was difficult in his time as it is in the present time to speak about something that forces a person to go against the status quo. It is always harder to go against the grain rather than to go with the flow. It took a great deal of moral courage to venture out and talk about the failure of the political and social leaders.
There is a second version of the poem, and in that second version Blake used a curious term and he said that there were guardians that were responsible for the debacle. Blake was saying that there were people were supposed to lead and take care of the children. They were supposed to be their guardians. They were supposed to ensure their safety and to ensure that they received proper care. However, these guardians failed to do their jobs.
Blake’s poem was a ripple in the pond. It seems small and insignificant at first. Nevertheless, in the long run when combined with other attempts to speak against the evil of neglecting child care, this poem created significant impact in the collective renewal of the perspective against children. It is hard to imagine that there was a time when children were not cherished and treasured as they are today. It is hard to imagine that human depravity is powerful enough to alter the natural-born tendency of human beings to love and protect their children.