Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A View of Heaven

The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake.

A little black thing in the snow,
Crying "weep! weep!" in notes of woe!
"Where are thy father and mother? Say!"
"They are both gone up to the church to pray.

"Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smiled among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

This poem suggests to me a vision of the world not unlike that found in some moments in the novels of Dickens. With the uncaring parents' heads focused on another world, the real world of the child is magnified. The contrast between the white of snow and the black "clothes of death" or the happy child who is taught to sing "notes of woe" highlight the stark reality of the world of the child. The poem may even presage such twentieth century visions as that of Ingmar Bergman in such films as The Seventh Seal. Are we to find heaven above or in the world around us with its' woe leavened by happiness?

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