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William Blake's London: Industrialization in the 18th Century

By cindyanlan Jan 14, 2013 457 Words
I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every black’ning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

The poem London was written by the British poet and engraver William Blake. It has 4 quatrains with alternative lines rhyming. Written in iambic pentameter, the poem is beautifully rhymed.

London deals with the dreadful scene in the industrialized London in the 18th century. In the first stanza, Blake gives an overview of the city and successfully creates the gloomy, dark and suffocating atmosphere. Blake applies varied rhetorical devices in the poem, of which the most striking and significant is repetition. For example, the word “chartered” is reiterated in line 1 and line 2 to emphasize the fact that the streets and river are owned by the wealthy upper class. And the word “mark” occurs in “mark in every face I meet”(line 3) and “mark of weakness, mark of woe”(line 4). The transition of the word “mark” from verb to noun manifests the change of observation to noticeable signs. Every person Blake meets in London is desperate and feeble. What a horrible scene it is! Repeated appearance of the word “every “in the second stanza stresses the idea that everyone suffers from misery. Blake hears the cry of the grown-ups, and of the infants in fear. Blake perceives the destructive restrictions on people’s mind caused by law and rules. “Mind-forged manacle” is a metaphor. Blake compares limitations with manacles. The expression that Blake hears “manacles” is synesthesia. In the third stanza Blake satirizes the church and the monarchies. The church walls are becoming black because of pollution; the sound of crying from the chimney sweepers combines with the sigh of soldiers arouses a feeling of fear and scare. On account of relentless warfare, soldier’s blood runs down from palace walls where the color of scarlet contrasts with the pale walls. During the midnight, the poet wonders through streets and hears the curse of prostitutes. They are infected with venereal diseases which pass on to their new-born babies. In the eyes of Blake, in London, marriage and birth, the symbols used to be regarded as revival and vitality, now forebode death. The appalling scene combines with devastating horror and fear reveals the social condition in London.

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