This is a brutal poem by William Blake. But then everything in Songs of Experience is brutal. The sing-song rhythms, the clipped meter (for instance the “Crying”, with the accept falling on the first syllable seems almost insistant), the childish ‘weep (rather than “sweep”) all make the irony more bitter.
Moreover, the attack of Blake oddly runs in a manner consistent with Christianity (although not always ‘Christianity’ as practiced). Jesus forbad misuse of the weak. In perhaps the strongest section of such argument, Jesus said that on Judgment Day he will evaluate all human actions as if he were the recipient:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:41-46.
Jesus must never be thought of as one distant from human suffering, but rather as one who willingly entered into human suffering. Blake saw a God as wholly transcendent above his creation, merely shouting down rules and limitations. He was being deliberately subversive (which I thought very cool when I was in college); but it is a thought which doesn’t wear well.
That being said, The Chimney Sweeper is a remarkable poem.
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.”