What the poem is about

  • The narrator is describing a walk around the city of London
  • He says that everywhere he goes, the people he meets are affected by misery and despair.
  • This misery seems rentless.  No one can escape it - not even the young and innocent.
  • People in power, like the Church, the monarchy and wealthy landowners seem to be behind the problems, and do nothing to help the people in need.
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Stanza 1

"I"= First-person narrator personalises the poem and makes it seem more real.

"wander"= This sounds purposeless - could reflect how he feels powerless to change what's happening.

"each chartered street"= Suggest the whole city is affected, not just one area.

"chartered Thames"= Even porwerful, natural features like the River Thames are under human control, and affected by the city problems.

"mark"= means 'notice', but also suggests everyone he sees is marked by experience.

"Marks of weakness, Marks of woe"= Repitition emphasises feeling of bleakness - despair affects everyone and there's no relief from it.

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Stanza 2

Repitition of "every" emphasises feeling of bleakness - despair affects everyone and there's no relief from it.

"infants cry of fear"= the speaker hears various distressing noises - makes it seem like a vivid, hellish experience.

"mind-forged manacles"= People are trapped in every way, even by thoughts and attitudes.

"I hear"= the speaker hears various distressing noises - makes it seem like a vivid, hellish experience.

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Stanza 3

"how chimney-sweeper's cry"= Chimey sweepers are usually young boys - this is an emotive image of child labour. Use of rhetorical question. The narrator use rhetorical questions to persuade people of his point of view - he uses powerful, emotive words and images to reinforce the horror of the situation. Repitition is used to emphasise the number of people affected and to show how society needs to change.

"Black'ning church"= Seems to be angry at all forms of power - describing the church as "black'ning" could suggest that it is corrupt or that it is tarnished by its failure to look after people. It's also a grim visual image of the ugliness caused by the Industrial Revolution.

"runs in blood down palace walls"= Might be a reference to the French Revolution. Sounds like he thinks ordinary people suffer while those in the palace are protected behind walls.

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Stanza 4

"youthful harlot's"= Contrast between the innocence of youth and sordidness of prostitution.

"curse"= He hears the prostitutes swearing, but he might also mean that they are a curse on London. The poem includes depressing sites and sounds of the city- the first stanza is about what he sees, the second is about what he hears and the last two stanzas combines the visual and aural.

"Blasts the new born infant's tear"= The innocence of newborn babies is lost immediately - society damages its members.

"Blights with plagues"= Powerful language of illness and disease.  Destruction is implied by "blights" and "plagues" hints at something that's uncontrollable and destined to affect lots of people.

"Marriage hearse"= Oxymoron - links the happy image of marriage with death. Suggests everything has been destroyed. It is used to show how everythng is affected and nothing pure or innocent remains

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Form, Structure, Feelings and Attitudes

FORM- This is a dramatic monologue- the first person narrator speaks passionately and personnally about the suufering he sees. The ABAB rhyme scheme is unbroken and seems to echo the relentless misery of the city. The regular rhythm could reflect the sound of his feet as he trudges around.

STRUCTURE- The narrator presents relentless images of downtrodden, deprived people. the first stanza is about what he sees, the second is about what he hears and the last two stanzas combines the visual and aural.

ANGER- Emotive language and repitition show the narrator's anger at the situation. He mentions "every black'ning church" and "palace walls", suggesting he's especially angry at those who are in power, who could do something to change things but don't.

HOPELESSNESS- The "mind forged manacles" suggests the people themselves are also to blame - they're trapped by their own attitudes. They appear hopeless because they're not able (or not even trying) to help themselves.

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