London

London

by William Blake

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 blackning 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

Summary of London

  • Popularity of “London”: William Blake, a famous English poet and painter, wrote ‘London’. It is a narrative poem about the sufferings during the industrialization. It was first published in 1974 in his volume, Songs of Experience. The poem speaks about the speaker’s journey through the streets of London, portraying the negative aspects of that city. Its also deals with child labor and slavery.
  • “London” As a Representative of Sorrow: The poem reflects upon the poet’s experiences during his life in London. He narrates what he sees and hears while wandering in the streets of London. The poem begins when the speaker is walking along the Thames River. As he travels along, he encounters many weary and mournful faces. He continues observing and hears crying and sounds of suffering because people are forced to work in horrid condition. Also, he expresses resentment on how poverty and sickness have doomed everything around him. He continues to describe the miserable cries of chimney sweepers, darkening churches and the soldiers who died because of war. At midnight, he hears the prostitute cursing his baby’s cry. This curse would surely affect the innocence and purity of that tiny soul. Thus, London forces people to live a life of misery.
  • Major Themes in “London”: Affects of industrialization, poverty, materialism and child labor are the major themes of this poem. The poet expresses the darker aspects of London. He discusses how the city is plagued with sickness, poverty and moral corruption. People are not getting legitimate treatment with resultant agony and distress. Death is also one of the prominent themes of this poem. He comments on how the church walls are covered with blood due to wars. Hence, he also tells how the upper class tormented the working people, including children.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “London”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make texts more appealing to the reader. William Blake has employed some literary devices in this poem to picture the image of London in the early 18th century. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /e/ in “In every voice: in every ban”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /s/ in “Marks of weakness, marks of woe”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /s/ in “And the hapless Soldiers sigh”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“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.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “I wander thro’ each charter’d street”, “How the Chimney-sweepers cry” and “Runs in blood down Palace walls.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism means to use symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. Here, “soldier’s sigh” symbolizes the state of frustration, “chimney sweeper” is the symbol of death, darkness and destruction and “harlot’s curse” symbolizes the prostitute’s pathetic life experiences.
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects different in nature. For example, “The mind-forg’d manacles I hear” is a metaphor for the hardships of the people working in industries, which is equal to working in prison.
  4. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. The below lines express the sorrow of the citizens suppressed under the upper class.

“In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “London”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem, with each having four lines in it.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is quatrain as the first one.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme and this pattern continuous till the end.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “cry/sigh”, “hear/tear” and “flow/woe.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable for explaining the life of people leading a life of extreme misery and longing for liberation from oppression.

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.”