Monday, September 30, 2019

18th Century English Poetry Essay

Eighteenth century poetry consisted of several types of literature including ode, elegy, epistle, verse tale, hymn, song ballad and epigram. This period is frowned upon by critics who compare the context of this era to that of another. They claim Eighteenth century poetry is considered frivolous because often times the content lacked a true essence that poetry upheld for many centuries. Perhaps this is true, for the times of this period were changing and people were facing greater hardships in their daily lives. Melancholy plagued those who were greatly concerned with social ills which may explain the presence of abstract and satiric themes that were heavily prevalent. Perspectives evolved from the Renaissance period into Neoclassicism where individuals became secondary and a greater emphasis on the straight forward mechanics of poetry existed ( Rowles). Although there were many artist noted among this genre of poetry, William Blake established himself as a simple yet dramatic writer who used irony, naà ¯Ã‚ ¿Ã‚ ½ve subjects, and traditional ballad structure to baffle the many readers to come( Norton p. 2264). William Blake wrote â€Å"The Chimney Sweeper† of â€Å"Songs of Innocence† in 1789. This poem is about young children who whose families were unable to care for them financially, therefore sent to work in English mines during the 18th century. These boys were often sold to master sweepers and in turn were treated inhumanely ( Arp and Johnson p.117). Blake took this harsh treatment of human life to reveal serous social criticism of his European society. Their heads were shaved bare to prevent black soot from soiling their hair and often suffered from serious diseases. Now, one can understand why Blake’s work was frowned upon by aristocracies and often viewed as insane as he strongly disapproved and openly dissented the social welfare programs in his country (Norton p.2268). There is no identifiable audience except for those that hear the third line of the first stanza, â€Å"‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!† in the streets of England. This is interpreted as a child’s attempt to sing â€Å"Sweep! Sweep!,† which was the chimney sweeper’s street cry. There are two ideas which evolve throughout â€Å"the Chimney Sweeper†. Depending on one’s outlook, the first possibility is that Blake is stating no matter how detrimental life becomes, no matter how bad the church (government/law) is; one will be with God after death. Sadly children are celebrating the morality of this concept. The idea is if these children continue to work hard, eventually life will resume in the peaceful heavens. This is revealed through a dream the little boy had when, â€Å"an Angel who had a bright key†¦opened the coffins and set them all free.† The last stanza completes this thought by stating, â€Å"Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm, so if all do their duty they need not fear harm.† The other possibility is a negative-toned belief that children are conned into accepting their lives as slaves for adults. Either way, these boys are mocked by their naà ¯Ã‚ ¿Ã‚ ½ve states (Arp 117). Blake’s use of dramatic irony is shining bright as he deliberately creates a cheerful sound for six stanzas while simultaneously developing a drastically different meaning. Ironically, this poem shows that children succumb to a positive perspective on life and do not fear death for they are too young to understand the realm of the situation. In the first two lines, Blake gives us an image of a child in a state of agony or even in a state of corruption as he is left all alone with no parents. However, after a night full of merry dreams the boy wakes up feeling â€Å"happy and warm.† This leads the reader to believe life continues with no worries instead of completing the story with a boy whose future is bleak and laborious. Perhaps, although I doubt, Blake would desire the reader to believe that anyone has the ability to be content with a depleted life so long as his/her dreams fulfill that empty space. Blake uses the image of two colors to represent the simplicity of this picture. The color black which holds significant importance as it is used to represent death and corruption. Black is the color of the boy’s coffins in the little boy’s dream. The color black is also referenced to the soot which is filth that covers the boys as they perform their daily chores. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the color white represents purity and angelic-like spirit. The eighth line, Tom’s hair is white before his head is shaved. At this point, Tom is compared to feeble lamb, a symbol of the ultimate sacrificial animal, as he cries when his head becomes bare. And similar to biblical stories, Tom is â€Å"naked and white† when the angels carry him off to heaven where God will be his father. Blake creates an allusion by giving the reader a peace of mind while using God as a symbol for safety and care (Norton p. 2268). There is no discernible meter for the poem, the beats jump anywhere from eight to twelve, with no repetition or pattern found. The â€Å"Chimney Sweeper† tone sounds very much like a nursery rhyme. Similar to â€Å"Rock-A-Bye-Baby†, the sounds are sweet an innocent, but if you read the words, â€Å"when the bow break, the cradle will fall† the words are quite disturbing. Like the dramatic irony established in this poem, tone presents itself as two-dimensional, sounding soft but actually disheartening. Williams Blake writes an excellent poem in my opinion; he used terms and ideas that we have studied in this course such as irony, symbolism and allusion. Although his language is simple rather than manipulating complicated words that Shakespeare prefers, I find his style easier to evaluate. Please do not get the wrong idea, by easy I mean a better understanding. Old world writers are fascinating, but often times are too difficult to comprehend, much less interpret. Not only did I learn about 18th century poetry, I also gained knowledge of Europe social ills of the time. Woks Cited Arp, Thomas, and Greg Johnson. Sound and Sense: An introduction to Poetry. 10th Ed. Heinle & Heinle: Boston, MA, 2002 Hugo, Howard, and Patricia M. Spacks. â€Å"Revolution and Romanticism in Europe and America.† The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed. Maynoard Mack. New York City, NY: W.W. Norton & Co. 1997. 2264 & 2268. Rowles, Kelly. â€Å"Overview of 18th Century Poetry.† New Jersey, 2004. Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Aug. 2004

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