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William Blake (1757-1827)

The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died I was very young


              1When my mother died I was very young,
              2And my father sold me while yet my tongue
              3Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!"
              4So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

              5There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
              6That curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd, so I said
              7"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare
              8You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

              9And so he was quiet, and that very night
            10As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!
            11That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
            12Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black.

            13And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
            14And he open'd the coffins and set them all free;
            15Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
            16And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

            17Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
            18They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
            19And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
            20He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

            21And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
            22And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
            23Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
            24So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: William Blake, Songs of Innocence (1789). Blake's Illuminated Books, ed. David Bindman (Princeton, NJ: William Blake Trust; London: Tate Gallery, 1991-). See Vol. 2. PR 4142 B46 1991 ROBA.
First publication date: 1789
RPO poem editor: Northrop Frye
RP edition: 3RP 2.279.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/14

Rhyme: aabb


Other poems by William Blake