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William Blake's main point in his poem "Holy Thursday" is that the innocent children of England are being used and exploited by the church to display its charity and assuage the guilt of the rich. These unfortunate children live in severe and abject poverty with no way out except by working themselves to death in England's child labor industries. The "parade" of these children to the church on Holy Thursday is a disguise of the abuse that these children suffer. It is a false display of charity presented by the church for the benefit of the church and the rich alike. It postures the children as recipients of the benign goodness of the church when in reality the appalling conditions under which the children have to suffer day in and day out is never addressed or alleviated by those directly or indirectly responsible for the children's well-being. These children have no way out of their predicament except by dying.

The only thing the church is concerned about is staging its pretty charity show and deceiving the rest of the world to the truth of the children's plight. The rich only have concerns for the fact that their industries need the child labor these little ones can supply. The wealthy have no thought to the fact that these children, under deplorable working conditions, will draw their last breath of life in their factories and mines. To establish the fact that these children are truly exploited by the wealthy and used for the churches own agenda I wish to cite examples from William Blake's poem "Holy Thursday" to thoroughly substantiate this statement (51).

Blake considers it an outrage that a country that is such a "rich and fruitful land" as England could allow its children to live and be treated in such a deplorable manner (l. 2). How can England be called "rich" when there are multitudes of poor children living there? In truth it seems ""¦ so many children poor?/It is a land of poverty!" (l. 7-8).

These children live in a world bereft of sunlight, their lives so miserable they are in a state of "eternal winter" (l. 12). The holiness of the gathering of the children at St. Paul's Cathedral is in question "Is this a holy think to see/"¦Babes reduced to misery," (ll. 1-3). We see that there is nothing "holy" in the Holy Thursday service at St Paul's Cathedral for the poor children. It is a service which shows us thousands of children at the severest poverty level possible paraded before people that care absolutely nothing for their welfare. Celebrations of sun and rain cannot be for these children ""¦their sun does never shine/And their fields are bleak & bare" (ll. 9-10). These children are forever celebrating hunger, a hunger "Fed with cold and usurous hand?" (l. 4). The church places the children on exhibit to show the people how much concern the church has for the children's welfare and their religious upbringing, but the church in fact does little to really help these children at all.

They have little to be cheerful about and nothing to "sing joyous" about as can be seen in the verse "Is that trembling cry a song?/Can it be a song of joy?/And so many children poor?" (ll. 5-7). The only prospect that awaits them is toil in a brutal industry so that the wealthy can increase their coffers for ""¦ their ways are fill'd with thorns;" (l. 11).

They have an empty future with no hope of overcoming the poverty they live in and nothing to look forward to except an early grave earned from brutal child labor. The only release from the hell that they live in can be seen in the following verse: For where-e'er the sun does shine, And where-e'er the rain does fall, Babe can never hunger there, Nor poverty the mind appall. (ll. 13-15) This way to heaven is their only release from a life of sorrow and misery, as well as, a liberation from the guardianship of those that use and exploit them. Namely the rich and the church officials responsible for their well being.

William Blake's poem "Holy Thursday" expounds on the cruelty and neglect of the poor children of England. It brings attention to their exploitation and abuse by the very people responsible for their protection and comfort namely, the church and the rich. I have cited many examples from the poem "Holy Thursday" providing evidence to the validity of these statements.

Works Cited Blake, William. "Holy Thursday." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. vol 2. Eds. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2000. 51.

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