London by William Blake

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London

William Blake was one of the romantic poets whose philosophy included a yearning to break free from social and political restrictions. This is evident in his poem “London” in which he explores the oppression of the common people and expresses his cynical view of London. It is through numerous poetic techniques that Blake conveys the idea of restriction in London at that time.

On a first reading the structure of the poem illustrates the restricted and rigid nature of existence. The poem is divided into 4 quatrains each rhyming AB AB. This regularity hints to the tight control that Blake opposes in society. The effect of this technique is to highlight the predictability of London, just as the rhyme scheme never deviates from its norm so to does London not.

In stanza one the poet uses repetition to emphasise his criticism of London. This is seen in the words “charter’d street” and “charter’d Thames”. The word chartered refers to being defined by legal agreement. The irony in defining a river, which is usually free flowing, and therefore restricting a part of nature is pointed out by Blake who finds these agreements narrow and restrictive. In addition repetition appears in the word “mark”, first used as a verb and later as a noun. The speaker of the poem observes in the faces of the people around him signs of “weakness…woe”. THE alliteration emphasizes how subdued the people are as well as sad and mournful.

In the second stanza the techniques of repetition is used once again to great effect. The word “every” suggests that it applies to every single person or thing. There appears to be no escape. Hence the effect of this is to show that oppression is pervasive. The repetition clearly shows the writers cynical attitude to “ban[s]” or legal restrictions and especially to the “mind forg’d manacles”. The use of alliteration in “mind…manacles” deliberately links the surface meaning of these two words to show that the chains that enslave people are...
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