For a look at the artwork and design within which Blake situated his poetry, please take a look at the Blake Archive. For “Jerusalem,” the poem from Blake’s Milton that has become one of the national songs of England, go here.
“The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence (1789)
“The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Experience (1793)
“London” from Songs of Experience
“The Little Black Boy” from Songs of Innocence
“Infant Joy” from Songs of Innocence
“Infant Sorrow” from Songs of Experience
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 & in soot I sleep. There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, 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, & that very night, As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight! That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack, Were all of them locked up in coffins of black; And by came an Angel who had a bright key, And he opened the coffins & 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 & 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 & never want joy. And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark And got with our bags & our brushes to work. Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm; So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm
William Blake, “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Experience
A little black thing among 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 smil'd 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."
William Blake, “London”
I wander thro' each charter'd street, Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice: in every ban, The mind-forg'd manacles I hear How the Chimney-sweepers cry Every blackning Church appalls, And the hapless Soldiers sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls But most thro' midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new-born Infants tear And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
William Blake, “The Little Black Boy”
My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child: But I am black as if bereav'd of light. My mother taught me underneath a tree And sitting down before the heat of day, She took me on her lap and kissed me, And pointing to the east began to say. Look on the rising sun: there God does live And gives his light, and gives his heat away. And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive Comfort in morning joy in the noonday. And we are put on earth a little space, That we may learn to bear the beams of love, And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove. For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice. Saying: come out from the grove my love & care, And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice. Thus did my mother say and kissed me, And thus I say to little English boy. When I from black and he from white cloud free, And round the tent of God like lambs we joy: I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear, To lean in joy upon our fathers knee. And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair, And be like him and he will then love me.
William Blake, “Infant Joy”
I have no name I am but two days old.— What shall I call thee? I happy am Joy is my name,— Sweet joy befall thee! Pretty joy! Sweet joy but two days old, Sweet joy I call thee; Thou dost smile. I sing the while Sweet joy befall thee.
William Blake, “Infant Sorrow”
My mother groan’d! my father wept. Into the dangerous world I leapt: Helpless, naked, piping loud; Like a fiend hid in a cloud. Struggling in my father’s hands: Striving against my swaddling bands: Bound and weary I thought best To sulk upon my mother’s breast.