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In this installment, John Struloeff reads “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake. Struloeff is the author of the poetry collection, The Man I Was Supposed to Be, forthcoming from Loom Press in Fall 2007. His poems have appeared or are soon forthcoming in The Atlantic Monthly, Prairie Schooner, Zyzzyva, PN Review (UK), The Southern Review, and elsewhere. In 2005, he completed the Ph.D. program in creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently (2005-07) a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University.
William Blake, "The Chimney Sweeper" [From Songs of Innocence]
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 curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd, 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 lock'd up in coffins of black.
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he open'd 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.