When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry 'Weep! weep! weep! weep!'
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.
There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said,
'Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.'
And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!--
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.
And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
The speaker in this poem is a friend of Tom Dacre and fellow chimney sweeper. He is adressing their lives and need of perseverance. The overall message of this poem is persistance through life, and to always keep their chin up.
The narrator loses his parents are a very young age - one to death, and one from being abandon. Having a troubled childhood and an occupation of being a chimney sweeper, life doesn't seem very rewarding or worth while. Tom Dacre's life to him also seems short of perfection (an example of Dacre's grief would be his crying from the head-shaving [L5-6] ).
The poem continues, however, changing ideas from troubled situations into determination. The narrator speaks to Dacre saying "...never mind it... the soot cannot spoil your white hair" (L7-8), a statement to look at the silver lining of each cloud. Optimism is consistent through lines 11-16 with Dacre's descriptive dream. He sees thousands of sweepers locked in their "coffins of black", referring to the dirty chimneys they clean. Following the "coffins of black" is the sight of an Angel who sets them all free to a life of happiness, humor, and cleanliness.
The last 6 lines are directed towards Dacre and the narrator to keep forward and never give up. This message of hope assures them so that the next morning, the two men are happy and warm, destined to a life without worry or harm.
There is somewhat of a ridgid form in this poem as Blake uses two couplets in each stanza. The form and rhyme scheme helps draw in the reader, which also aids one's imagination. Visual imagery also helps emphasize certain points in the text. "White hair" in line 8 refers to Dacre being wholesome, pure at heart, and generally a good man. line 12's "coffins of black" depict chimney sweeping as gloomy and degrading. Lines 13 and 16 also hold an inspiring quality with the "bright key" and "shine in the sun". This dramatizes the reassurance from leading a good life, and really helps to stress the meaning: Live a good life, do the duties you are given, and you will live a happy and blissful life.