The protagonist and his terrible background are introduced in the opening stanza: his mother died, and he was sold by his father, most likely out of desperation. As a chimney sweeper, he is an example of a child worker exploited by the system. He sings about how he has been "torn from the arms" of his parents and "sold to slavery."
Yes, William Blake was a chimney sweep. However, unlike many children who become chimney sweeps at an early age through no fault of their own, such as because there are no jobs for others to do or because they live in a part of town where burning wood is still used instead of gas or electric power. Blake became a chimney sweep when he was almost 30 years old. He had already published several books and poems at that time.
In addition to being a poet, artist, and graphic designer, Blake also invented what might now be called a smart phone. However, it wasn't very popular at the time it was released in 1799. The device contained drawings of animals and plants that could be selected and printed by users.
Although he was well-off financially, Blake felt compelled to give away much of his earnings in order to publish more art and poetry. This went on for several years until he finally gave up and moved to London so he could be closer to other artists and writers.
As a Representative of Sorrow: Because this poem is about youthful chimney sweepers, the speaker discusses how he got into the sweeping job. He claims that when his mother died, his father hired him as a chimney sweeper. Thus, the speaker learned the trade from experience rather than learning it from someone else.
As a Speaker for Life & Death: The speaker of this poem is one of those young chimney sweeps mentioned in the first line of the poem. He has come to value his job and the lives it has saved. Therefore, he has become interested in speaking before groups of people about death and the afterlife.
As a Voice for God: This poem is about a young chimney sweeper who is determined to speak for life instead of death. He wants to tell people that there is still hope for those who believe in Jesus Christ. With these thoughts in mind, he decides to start speaking in churches and other public places about how we can be saved by believing in Jesus.
As a Way to Make Money: This poem is about a young chimney sweeper who wants to get ahead in his world. He realizes that to do this, he will have to talk publicly about living souls being saved from eternal fire by believing in Jesus.
This poem's speaker is a little kid who was sold into the chimney-sweeping industry after his mother died. He tells the story of another chimney sweeper, Tom Dacre, who grieved when his hair was shaved to keep vermin and soot out of it. Then one day he saw a cat and decided not to shave his head again.
The poem is by William Cowper. It was first published in 1785 as part of a collection called Poems by Various Authors. It's one of the few poems by Cowper that are still in print today.
Here's how it starts:
My father was a chimney sweep,
His name was Joe, but they call'd him Jim.
He went up stairs with a soger stick,
And came down with a bundle of sticks.
One night he went up stairs with no light,
To find a bad fire in a long loft.
The next morning Mr Johnson said,
"Your son's been to the devil last night!"
Then my father took a shaver,
And shaved his head instead!