London - William Blake (1757-1827)

  • Created by: v.a..
  • Created on: 16-04-19 15:20

Summary

William Blake's London describes a narrator's experience of walking through London. The poem was published in 1794.

The speaker describes his experience of walking through the streets of London.

He is struck by the poverty, disease and misery he sees and expresses anger that those in power do nothing to help.

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Blake's radical views

  • Blake’s views were radical at the time he was writing – he was critical of the rich’s lives of luxury compared to the suffering of the poor.
  • He was also against religion and saw the Church as corrupt.
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Blake's works

  • Blake wrote two famous groups of poems – “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience”.
    • “Innocence” poems explored ideas such as childhood and nature and were positive in their outlook.
    • “Experience” poems had a darker tone and focused on the corruption of society. This poem was published in the “Song of Experience” collection.
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Influence of the French Revolution

  • Blake saw the French Revolution of 1789 as the mark of a wonderful new beginning.
  • In response to events in France, the authorities in London limited freedom of expression to prevent a repeat in their country.
  • This is referred to in the poem through the links to the streets being “chartered” and the “mind-forged manacles”.
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Key Ideas - Being trapped

  • The inhabitants of London are trapped in their suffering. This idea is consistently reinforced by Blake using vocabulary relating to entrapment and imprisonment.
  • Blake suggests that the poor, in particular, cannot escape their circumstances.
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Key Ideas - Church & Monarchy

  • Blake is very critical of the Church and the monarchy. Even though these powerful institutions have a supposed duty to the people of London, they contribute to their oppression rather than relieving it.
  • Blake is also critical of these institutions for spending money on buildings and luxuries when there is so much suffering and poverty on their doorstep.
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Key ideas - Impact of industrialisation

  • The reference to chimney sweepers (often young children) reminds readers of the price people paid for urbanisation that resulted from the Industrial Revolution.
  • Children – who are meant to be carefree and innocent – are forced to take on responsibilities and endure hardship.
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Key Concepts in London

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Structure and Form of London

Blake keeps a regular rhythm but changes the focus of the poem to emphasise how never-ending and widespread the suffering is. Blake writes in the form of a dramatic monologue to express his opinions on the suffering.

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Regular rhythm and rhyme

  • There is a regular ABAB rhyme scheme and four stanzas of four lines each.
  • The poem is written in iambic tetrameter (a rigid rhythm). This could echo the never-ending suffering and misery in London.
  • The enjambment (sentences flowing over the end of lines) has a similar effect.
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Shifting focus

  • The first part of the poem describes the deprivation and misery in London.
  • The focus shifts in stanza 3 to those who Blake feels are responsible for this (the “black’ning church” and “palace”).
  • In the final stanza, the poet emphasises how widespread the problem is. It affects even those who have just been born.
    • This further emphasises how inescapable the deprivation is.
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Dramatic monologue

  • The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue.
  • The reader gets a strong sense of the speaker’s personal anger and frustration about the pain he sees around him.
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Corrupt Institutions

Blake is very critical of the Church and the monarchy because they don't help people's suffering. Blake uses these techniques to portray the Church and monarchy negatively.

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Colour imagery

  • Colour imagery of “black’ning church” is associated with ideas of corruption and even death.
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Metaphor

  • Runs in blood down palace walls”.
  • This metaphor emphasises that the monarchy are guilty of living in luxury while doing nothing to alleviate (lessen) the struggles of the city.
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Criticism of the Church & Monarchy

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Suffering and Horror: Language

The poem is very negative. There is no sense of hope for the future. The inhabitants of London are presented as being trapped in their suffering. Blake uses the linguistic (language) techniques to emphasise their suffering.

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Sensory language

  • Sensory language is used to bring the horror of London at this time alive.
  • Examples include:
    • Cry of fear”.
    • Marks of weakness, marks of woe”.
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Vivid language

  • Vivid verbs, like “curse” and “blast”, exacerbate (make worse) the horrors of London.
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Emotional language

  • The language throughout the poem is emotive.
  • The emotive language expresses not only the extent of the suffering but also Blake’s anger at the institutions that fail to help.
  • Examples include:
    • Weakness”.
    • Woe”.
    • In every infant’s cry of fear”.
    • Blast’s the newborn infant’s tear”.
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Repetition of “every”

  • Repetition of “every” throughout heightens the sense that the problem is widespread.
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Trapped Imagery

The poem is very negative. There is no sense of hope for the future. The inhabitants of London are presented as being trapped in their suffering through these images.

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"I wander through each chartered street..."

  • "I wander through each chartered street / Near where the chartered Thames does flow".
  • Something that is chartered is listed and regulated.
  • Repetition of “chartered” highlights the extent of government authority: they even have control over rivers, which are usually associated with nature and freedom.
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"The mind-forged manacles I hear"

  • Mind-forged manacles” could also hint that people are trapped by their attitudes, which prevent them from living better lives.
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Trapped Imagery in London

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Key Quotes - “Chartered streets…chartered Thames…”

  • Trapped imagery.
  • Something that is chartered is listed and regulated.
  • Repetition of “chartered” highlights the extent of government authority: they even have control over rivers, which are usually associated with nature and freedom.
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Key Quotes - “Marks of weakness, marks of woe”

  • Emotive language.
  • The emotive language expresses not only the extent of the suffering but also Blake’s anger at the institutions that fail to help.
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Key Quotes - "In every..."

In every cry of every Man / In every Infant’s cry of fear…

  • Emotive language.
    • The emotive language expresses not only the extent of the suffering but also Blake’s anger at the institutions that fail to help.
  • Repetition of “every” throughout heightens the sense that the problem is widespread.
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Key Quotes - “Every black’ning church appalls”

  • Colour imagery.
  • Black’ning church” is associated with ideas of corruption and even death.
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Key Quotes - “Runs in blood down palace walls”

  • Metaphor.
  • This metaphor emphasises that the monarchy is guilty of living in luxury while doing nothing to help the struggles of the city.
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Human power and the misuse of power

  • You may want to compare the theme of human power and the misuse of power in London to the following texts:
    • My Last Duchess.
    • Ozymandias.
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Unpleasant and/or powerful experiences

  • You may want to compare the theme of unpleasant and/or powerful experiences in London to the following texts:
    • The Prelude.
    • Exposure.
    • Bayonet Charge.
    • Remains.
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