Poetry Analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, Mending Wall and Channel Firing

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Table of contents

  1. Poems by William Blake
  2. Poems by Richard Crashaw
  3. Poem by Robert Frost
  4. Channel Firing by Thomas Hardy
  5. Works Cited

Poems by William Blake

Primarily, Blake intends to expose the cruelty of life and society as well as the consequences of the Christians' beliefs regarding suffering and hardship. The Chimney Sweeper begins by informing readers that the speaker was quite young when a tragic event occurred by stating, “ When my mother died I was very young” (Blake Songs of Innocence). Even though the poem does not reveal what killed the boy's mother, it alludes that her death somehow influenced his unfortunate fate. The boy argues that after his mother's death, the father got the opportunity to sell him to work in the chimneys, which might not have happened if the mother was alive.

Also, there is an allusion to the church's teachings as contributing to the plight of the children of this society. In the second poem Songs of Experience, the parents of a boy, whom the author rhetorically refers to as a little black thing, left him to die in the snow as they went to the church to pray. Blake warns society of maltreating children. In the first poem Songs of Innocence, the author likens children to innocence or the kingdom of God. Here, he creates imagery of the suffering children being rescued by an angel, who symbolizes that the children, although oppressed by their parents and society, are generally accepted in the holy kingdom. The use of word white is used to describe children and emphasizes their innocence.

“Blake compiled the poems during the 18th century when English society depended on child labor in cleaning chimneys due to their small sizes” (Wheatley and Searle 46). Therefore, the selling of young children in this labor market was not uncommon. “Unfortunately, even though this business was explicit oppression and violation of children's welfare, it was generally accepted by the society of the time” (Wheatley and Searle 46). Even worse is the fact that these children were subjected to humiliating conditions at the chimneys such as hunger, inadequate clothing, respiratory complications, and other bad conditions that often caused their deaths. Hence, Blake compiled this poem to show society child maltreatment.

Poems by Richard Crashaw

Crashaw reflects on the massacre of children during the reign of King Herod, as explained in the gospel of Matthew 2. In 'upon the infant martyrs,' Crashaw appears to question the significance of the massacre and how heaven will reward these young martyrs The poem begins with rhetoric that enables a reader to paint the image of the day of the massacre. The use of 'mother's milk in the second line is an indication that the children were quite young. However, despite being innocent, they faced the massacre due to religious issues. In the last two lines, the author writes “Make me doubt if heaven will gather Roses hence, or lilies rather”(Crashaw). He is explaining if heaven will collect roses or lilies in their remembrance. Mostly, the usage of roses depicts honor, love, or beauty. However, lilies, as applied during Easter celebrations, imply resurrection or life after death. Therefore, Crashaw questions the reward between being honored or resurrected that the children who died in this massacre will receive. In other words, he makes Christians meditate about the reward that is equivalent to the heinous nature of the massacre.

However, in the second poem, 'to the infant martyrs,' Crashaw reveals some benefits accrued to the martyrs. In the second line, the poet promises them that they will learn to sing. He also indicates that the milk will be in all their ways. There is a chance that the use of milk in this section implies that the young martyrs will have access to plenty of food.

I view Crashaw's poems as intended to make Christians reflect on the significance of some of the events that happen in the name of religion. Like Crashaw, critics might question the exact significance of King Herod's hostility. More importantly, one wonders why innocent children would have to die in such a horrible version. From a different perspective, Crashaw's ideas endorse the vulnerability of children to oppression, as explained by Blake.

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Poem by Robert Frost

Frost's Mending Wall intends to explore the significance of keeping some privacy in relationships. Notably, the poem reflects the time when American farmers used to have walls to prevent their livestock from entering into their neighbors' farms. Specifically, it involves two neighbors who had met to repair a wall between their farms. However, the narrator is skeptical of the tradition, particularly since the two farms do not have any animals, but only apples and pine trees. Therefore, according to him, such walls existed for fulfilling tradition but never served any real significance. Still, the narrator had realized that there was something in the natural world that disliked walls. For example, mysterious gaps develop, and borders often fall “And makes gaps even two can pass abreast” (Frost). , Walls were not strong enough to serve the intended purpose. The speaker introduces some ambiguity since he does not clarify what causes gaps or the falling of borders. However, the speaker's neighbor keeps insisting that good fences make good neighbors.

Notably, the poem raises contradicting but significant themes. Based on the speaker's views, it seems that walls restrict interactions, and in so doing, they compromise relationships. In reality, relationships grow when neighbors or people interact with each other. Indeed, the interaction might lead to supporting each other in many activities that result in a stronger relationship. Even in the context of the poem, having no wall would enable the speaker and the neighbor to meet regularly and have a more stable relationship. Lastly, mending walls offers insights into the ways that governments can apply to foster good relationships with the neighboring countries. Open borders mostly encourage trade between citizens of neighboring countries as well as a close relationship between governments. However, as the speaker's neighbor narrates, walls or borders can be the only option at times. “In the United States, for example, open borders have been associated with promoting drug trafficking, money laundering, and increased risks of terrorism” (Caparini and Marin 224).

Channel Firing by Thomas Hardy

Hardy's poem illustrate humans' conflict and the disruption that wars cause. It begins with the speaker, who is a dead person, discussing the noises that great guns made that eventually shook all their coffins. The use of dead people is used to emphasize the devastating conditions created by wars. This means if the dead feel disrupted and embarrassed by wars, the living must feel more humiliated.

Apart from mentioning of dead people, the poet used some words to make the reader paint the picture of how destructive wars can become. The narrator states “We thought it was the Judgment-day” (Hardy). Religious people believe that this last day will mostly be the most troubling. The expected sounds of trumpet and the agony of those who will not manage to get to the kingdom of heaven are some of the unpleasant expectations of judgment day. Thus, this phrase creates the imagery of the turmoil that accompanies wars. God's voice in the third paragraph affirms humans as violent creatures. He clarifies that it is not judgment day, but the world is as it was before the dead went below the sea –implying that humans have always been violent. However, some other aspects of this poem indicate that the wars mostly affect human beings either living or dead only. In the third paragraph, for instance, the poet indicates that the “glebe cow drooled” (Hardy). This phrase reveals that these cows of the fields went on with their daily routines, despite the agony inflicted by human conflicts.

Besides exploring the aspects of human violence, the poem has another theme; religious distortions that influence people to fight in the name of God. The narrator argues that nations have been committed to making red wars more intense for the sake of Christ Therefore, Hardy concurs with the sentiments of poets like Blake and Crashaw that the church can directly or indirectly influence social problems.

I believe this poem was a reflection of the events that societies were experiencing in the early 1900s or the late 1800s. Indeed, since the Crimean war of the 1850s, the world had experienced a series of other bloody conflicts such as the American Civil War, the Russo-Japanese War, conflicts in the Ottoman Empire, the Mexican Revolution, and many other ethnic wars (Murray 1). Therefore, Hardy used observations learned from the human relations of the time to predict the occurrence of similar wars in the future as well as their expected consequences. The poem offers significant lessons for human beings to understand their susceptibility to violence which often causes adverse effects on the human race. People should always believe in the occurrence of future wars and, if possible, ensure the development of mechanisms that can calm this historical suffering

Works Cited

  1. Blake, William. 'The chimney sweeper: from songs of innocence and from songs of experience.” 1789, 1793.
  2. Caparini, Marina, and Otwin Marenin. Borders and security governance: Managing borders in a globalized world. Zurich: Lit, 2006. Print.
  3. Crashaw, Richard. 'Upon the infant martyrs,' and 'To the infant martyrs.' 17th century.
  4. Frost, Robert. 'Mending wall.' 1914.
  5. Hardy, Thomas. 'Channel firing.' 1914.
  6. Murray, Damien. Irish nationalists in Boston: Catholicism and conflict, 1900-1928. CUA Press, 2018.
  7. Wheatley, Nadia, and Ken Searle. Australians Aal: A history of growing up: from the Ice Age to the Apology. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2013. Print.
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Poetry Analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, Mending Wall and Channel Firing. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/poetry-analysis-the-chimney-sweeper-mending-wall-and-channel-firing/
“Poetry Analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, Mending Wall and Channel Firing.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/poetry-analysis-the-chimney-sweeper-mending-wall-and-channel-firing/
Poetry Analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, Mending Wall and Channel Firing. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/poetry-analysis-the-chimney-sweeper-mending-wall-and-channel-firing/> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
Poetry Analysis: The Chimney Sweeper, Mending Wall and Channel Firing [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/poetry-analysis-the-chimney-sweeper-mending-wall-and-channel-firing/
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