London by William Blake

This poem is in the 1794 collection “Songs of Innocence and of Experience” The book combines two sets of poems linked by the contrast principle: one of” innocence” (childhood, idealism, hope) with poems like The Lamb or The Little Black Boy, and one of “Experience”  (adulthood, disillusionment, social criticism, and despair) with poems like The Tyger and The Little Vagabond.

Summary of London by William Blake

In the poem, William Blake is primarily describing a highly corrupted society ruled by the power of materialism, as well as the disparity between the upper and lower classes. It is written from a highly negative perspective, with people living in a gloomy and repressive world, experiencing the effects of those in positions of power’s depravity. The issue is that they are unaware that this is occurring to them. As a result, he rejects the idea of an ideology or ideal location to dwell, and he wants people to be conscious of the sorrow that surrounds them. There are no lovely streets or people. A planet with a highly dismal mood in which everything is impoverished. All of these notions are reflected in a single location: London. The poem is composed of four quatrains in iambic tetrameter, with a basic rhyme scheme beginning a/b/a/b.
The author describes himself as wandering through every transient street in the first quatrain. The adjective chartered appears to connote the importance of money in daily life in this fleeting society, when everything revolves around money, wealth, and its value to achieve anything. Despite the importance money plays in the world and the happiness it brings, many people are controlled by despair and unhappiness. This is demonstrated by the verses “In every cry of every man” and “In every infant’s cry of fear.” People are not pleased. They are constantly afraid, living in the shadows of a materialistic culture. Humans are losing their true feeling of life.
The materialism of words is echoed in the second quatrain with the mind-forged manacles, which depicts people’s obsession with money and reliance on essential institutions.

The author compares two dissimilar images in the third quatrain: a chimney sweeper and a soldier.

Both are archetypes that reflect the two important institutions of the time: monarchy and the church, which are the causes of human suffering. This one clearly connotes power and manipulation in society.

The fourth quatrain depicts the author talking about what he hears metaphorically while going down the street once more. The term “young harlot’s curse” refers to the disease syphilis, which was common in the 18th century and was the leading cause of death. Harlot has a bad connotation, as does curse. It is viewed as something that annihilates life and civilization. Harlots destroy families, but syphilis destroys life, and family is the most essential aspect of society, in this case, English society. The marriage rehearsal could be viewed as a vehicle through which love and desire collide with death and devastation (Elite Skills classics, 2004).

The poem’s concluding concept is the assertion of a free society, free of all shackles and ideological constraints. The lesson is to free oneself from the confines of your own thoughts and conceptions in order to reach freedom.

Analysis of London by William Blake

“London” is a poem by William Blake in which he argues that if a place’s organisation and structure are corrupt, people will never have the opportunity to be innocent (Plagiarist, 1998-2007). In this regard, it is worth noting that London is the only poem in Blake’s collection that does not feature an innocent pair. This reflects Blake’s displeasure with the state of affairs in London. There is no pleasant naive side

The term “Chartered” is vague and implies control and ownership. It could indicate the political and economic control that Blake perceived London to be under at the time he wrote. Thomas Paine, a friend of Blake’s, had criticised the issuing of Royal Charters to restrict trade as a sort of class tyranny. However, ‘chartered’ might also imply ‘freighted,’ and could relate to the congested or overburdened streets and river, or to the licenced trade conducted inside them.

Blake, according to Thompson, was an unorthodox Christian of the dissident tradition who believed that the state was abandoning those in need. He was highly affected by mystical organisations. Blake’s severe disappointment with the suffering he witnessed in London is reflected in the poem.

The reference to a harlot blighting the’marriage hearse’ with ‘plague’ is commonly taken to relate to the spread of venereal disease in the city, transmitted by a prostitute to a man and subsequently to his bride, so that marriage can become a death sentence.

The poem was published amid the upheavals of the French Revolution, when London was experiencing political and social unrest as a result of the time’s severe social and working inequities. An understandably concerned administration reacted by imposing limits on free expression and the mobilisation of foreign mercenaries.

Blake characterises 18th century London as a conurbation filled with people who grasped, with melancholy wisdom, both the hopelessness and suffering of their condition in the poem that bears the city’s name.

This poem’s London is filled with filth, disease, and death. Consider the references to blood, the colour black (“blackning Church,” chimney sweeper), the last stanza’s “plagues” the terms “blights” and “hearse”—do we need to go on? London is not the thriving commercial and cultural centre that many people believe it to be. No, it is a very “dead,” and unpleasant environment. Children die, women die, beloved institutions such as marriage die or become ill, and so on.

Line 9: Chimney sweeping was a filthy and dangerous job that, without a doubt, represents death in this setting.

Line 10: The church is metaphorically depicted as black. In most works of literature, black is rarely a good hue. The appearance of the word in the context of chimney sweeping is a play on the filth and soot that covered youngsters who worked in that industry, but it also implies that the church is associated with death rather than life.

• Lines 11-12: The soldier sighs, and his sigh turns to blood symbolically. With other words, the palace is soaked in blood—has blood on its hands—because it is to blame for this soldier and his sigh (and the things he may or may not have done in battle). Because there is no actual blood running down the walls, this is a metaphor for governmental culpability for mortality.

• Line 15: The term “blasts” does not seem particularly appealing—no, it doesn’t. It is a metaphor for how the infant’s tears are interrupted—stained and tainted by a heinous curse. However, the word “blast” also suggests that the infant’s innocence is being symbolically shattered or slain.

• Line 16: “Blights with plagues”—that is a morbid phrase if ever there was one. The harlot’s curse has a powerful, lethal effect. It damages or destroys the institution of marriage by literally and metaphorically afflicting it with plagues. It is accountable not only for actual sickness (of the venereal variety), but also for sullying or wrecking marriages symbolically through promiscuity and prostitution. Marriage is unquestionably dead; it is no more a union or a symbol of life, but rather a hearse.

Blake wrote extensively on children. Children appear as characters throughout his work, and many of the poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience are similar to children’s poems. “London” is no exception. Several infants are mentioned, as well as a chimney sweeper (back then, that deplorable job was reserved for children). Surprisingly, the youngsters in this poem are not acting like children. They do cry, but their tears are tainted by a harlot’s curse and are cries of terror. Instead of playing, the kids are hard at work. The core notion is that the universe has turned upside down, as evidenced by the fact that children are not truly children. Line 6: The speaker overhears fearful sobs from London’s infants. Those cries, he observes, alert him to the presence of “mind-forg’d manacles,” which symbolise or conjure up the sense of servitude and confinement. Slavery and infants? That is not acceptable. Lines 9 and 10: Line 6’s allusion to less specific servitude is made more real here. Typically, chimney sweepers were children. They do not sing as they work, but rather wail, and their cries “appal” the church, bringing it disgrace. The church, for its part, is figuratively dark, emphasising its participation in child maltreatment. Lines 15-16: The “tear” of the newborn is blasted. “Blasted” is a metaphor for how the innocent wailing of the people is ruined or tainted by the inappropriate, filthy cursing of a neighbouring harlot. The speaker indicates that things are horrible when a baby can not even wail in peace.


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