September 19, 2007


For several years, El Cabrero taught GED classes at Head Start centers in southern West Virginia. I got more out of it than my students, although several did graduate.

For one thing, I finally learned how to do ratio and proportion problems (cross multiply and divide).

For the literature part of the test, I would often bring in some of Blake's poems from Songs of Innocence and of Experience, which were nearly always enjoyed. There's something very accessible about Blake's style, even if his deeper meaning is hard to comprehend.

It was always interesting to see which poems different students would gravitate towards. One that often brought people to tears was "The Chimney Sweeper" from Songs of Innocence. For some historical background on the nasty, brutish and short lives of young chimney sweepers in Blake's England, click here.

Here is is:

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 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; 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 locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened 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.

I think the thing that really got to them was the image of their daily life as a living death--coffins of black--and that they could only play like children in their dreams.

CHARGES UPGRADED IN LOGAN CASE. From the Charleston Gazette:

Prosecutors upgraded charges on Tuesday against five of the six suspects accused of torturing and sexually abusing a 20-year-old Charleston woman in Logan County.

Each of the six defendants now faces accusations of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping, which carry maximum terms of 35 years and life in prison, respectively, among other charges.

ANOTHER TAKE ON GLOBALIZATION. Here's former labor secretary Robert Reich's analysis of supercapitalism, its threat to democracy, and what to do about it.

WHO'D A THUNK IT? This Business Week article shows how cell phone technology is stimulating local ecnonomie in the developing world. I just wish mine worked where I live...

OKAY. A Nebraska state senator filed suit against God. Who's going to serve the papers? and how? And wasn't there a movie about that?



Anonymous said...

with regards to yesturday's post correlation does not egual causation and there could be other extraneous variables that would account for the the world of bear attacks; however, the today show reported and interviewed a man who was calmly riding his bike when a BLACK BEAR jumped out and started eating him, he surivied, but it is further evidence that bears are "goin get cha" homeland security needs to be aware of these terrorists bears...

El Cabrero said...

I would just like to comment that I sense in this anonymous comment a type or rage not altogether dissimilar to the phenomenon of "cheerleader rage" as discussed in yesterday's post.

I am wondering whether the link between this rather free floating rage and the fear and hostility felt towards black bears could be a classic case of Freudian displacement.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...