tape begins with Allen reciting William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper”
“A little black thing among the snow,/Crying “weep, weep!”, in notes of woe!/ “Where are thy father & mother? say?”/”They are both gone up to the church to pray./ Because I was happy upon the heath,/And smil’d among the winters snow,/ They clothed me in the clothes of death,/And taught me to sing the notes of woe. And because I am happy, & dance & sing,/They think they have done me no injury,/And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King/Who make up a heaven of our misery.””
AG: Well, just a straight-forward attack on the Church. But the chimney sweeper at that time was a big social issue and there was a big argument (over) laws in Parliament on labor conditions for children. There was a Children’s Labor Act [Chimney Sweepers Act 1788]. I think I mentioned that. And the actual thing, I think I mentioned that, was you can’t put a kid down a burning chimney anymore.
Then the “Nurses’ Song” which is, I think, the most interesting, because the Nurse seems to me to be the experience (of death). These are songs of experience, so this is the experience of death, taking care of the kiddies and telling them to come in. Death is coming, or night is coming, or experience is coming. Admit the youth and innocence isn’t going to last forever, or they’re going to waken up to death sooner or later. And, as far as she’s concerned, she wishes she were young again – “The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,/My face turns green and pale.” – So she’s apparently had a wild youth. By hindsight, realizes how much damage she did and how many horrors took place, how many aborted children she had, how many horrible love affairs. How many people committed suicide over here. How much junk she shot. How many wars she started, how many mothers and fathers she killed.”