William Blake was an English poet. He is considered as a poet of the early phase of the Romantic age of England. He was also a painter and printmaker. He was a visionary poet, with an apt insight of human life and plight. He was well aware of the harsh realities and complexities of urban life. He was specifically concerned with the poverty, oppression of the weaker, and the plight of children. He, like Charles Dickens, perfectly and accurately portrayed the life of the Victorian Era and its cruelties on a particular class of human circle. Because of this, he is known as a social reformer.
His prophetic poetry has contributed a great deal to the English poetry. He lived during the time of Industrial Revolution. He was one of those scholars who criticized the Industrial Revolution. The reason for criticizing the industrial revolution was its drastic consequences: human exploitation, an increase in crime, loss of identity, exploitation of women and children.
Blake pointed out the prevailing problems of the contemporary society. His poetry was mainly read by upper-class society, therefore, with the power of his pen he tried to bring the attention of the upper-class society to the major problems of his time. He gave much importance to the rights of children who were treated as slaves by the people of upper class. Moreover, he portrayed the exploitation of children and exploitation of poor people of that time. The poems that deal with such societal problems are: “Holy Thursday”, “Chimney Sweeper”, “The Earth’s Answer”, etc.
His poem, “Chimney Sweeper”, depicts the cruelty of upper class and the exploitation of children. Children of poor people were sold to the members of the upper class to clean their chimneys. The job was so difficult for innocent children. They had to wake up early and word hard without the sufficient food. Their skin used to get engrained with soot, their eyes became permanently inflamed. Apart from this, children had to face torture. In the poem, it has been told that there was a boy named Tom who was crying when his head was hit. This shows the cruel punishments these children faced while serving as chimney sweepers.
William Blake did what he could possibly do about such horrors of society. He pinpointed the prevailing injustice of the society by writing very touching and tender poems about the plight of the poor and especially of children of his days. Through his writing, he brought the attention of the society to the problems that need to be eradicated from the society. His serious concern with the society’s betterment was the reason why he was known as a social reformer.
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