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“The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake

It was mentioned in class by someone that they thought this poem was anti- Christian. I tend to agree. I’ll go right to lines 19 and 20: “And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, / He’d have God for his father and never want joy.” This reminds me of a scene from the film Amistad in which some Christians came by to try and convert the Africans. One of the Africans asked another who those miserable looking people were, referring to the Christians. This made perfect sense to me. I’d be miserable too if I was denying the flesh all the time and thinking either of work or God and nothing else. But the thing is it seems that some Christians like to deny the flesh and think only of God all the time. That is what these lines seem to mean; never wanting joy is what Christianity is about.

To be lawyerly and present the other side of the argument, it could be pro- Christian. It could mean that having God for one’s father, one doesn’t need any other joy. Just the mere presence of God would make one content for all eternity. This also makes sense to me. In all the hypotheses of Heaven I have heard that have come from religious people, it isn’t much. Just the Gates, then a bunch of clouds and God is there. And His being there is what makes everyone happy and content. They just sit around all day and sing to God. The image in lines 13 and 14 also seem to support this argument. The Angel with his bright key setting all the dead chimney sweepers free. They are free to go to Heaven to be with God.

I think that through this writing I have convinced myself that this poem is in fact pro-Christian. Or at least not anti-Christian.


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