Solemn Soot and Social Despair In the Transformative World of William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper and London
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Solemn Soot and Social Despair
In the Transformative World of William Blake England was changing. The rolling green shires and inspiring scenery that was fixed in the earliest memories of the Romantic poets was quickly vanishing. There was a trade off happening. Rivets for rocks, chimney stacks for trees, locomotives for carriages and steal tracks for cobblestone. Piece by piece England’s quaint agricultural backdrop was being replaced by a stern industrial one. Progress! Some shouted. The greater good! Others exclaimed. Expansion was becoming virtuous. In droves they came from the country to work in London’s factories. The machines ruled the fields now. Farmers turned their plows in for hammers and the way peopled lived was never going to be the same.
A new social class was developing in England. It was the working class. And although a wider segment of the population was producing, creating steam for the Empire, certain leading minds of the time had to examine the under-belly of this fiery beast. In William Blake’s poems “The Chimney Sweeper” and “London” he does just that. Through this examination Blake dwells on the theme of the loss of innocence. He writes these two works in a straight forward tone, almost like a social awareness pamphlet, urging the reader to wake up. And in typical Romantic fashion he does this through stark imagery. What impression would a first time reader have after digesting these pieces when first published? Depending on their class