London Poem By William Blake

London Poem By William Blake


London Poem By William Blake : Critical Appreciation

Introduction :

Blake’s Poem entitled “London” was written in “Song Of Experience” in 1794. The Poet presents his views of the society of his time. According to the V.D.S. Pinto, the Poem is connected with Walt’s fourth song in the ‘Divine song for Children’.

He Says that the sequence of ideas in the two poems, is the same. Both begin, vision of poverty and misery is described. In this Poem Blake seems to have been influenced by Rousseau’s Views about society and its evil effects on Man.

‘London’ is widely regarded as one of Blake’s finest poems. Its reputation is fully justified by the intensity of feelings expressed in its sixteen lines.


Theme of this poem :

The Total enslavement of this society to false reason is the main theme of this poem. The poem represents his criticism of society and of the whole civilization, cruelty, hypocrisy, poverty, misuse of institutions, frustration of desire are evils which corrupt and destroy society.

In this Poem, the poet gives his own views of the ‘chartered liberty’ on which his contrymen prided themselves. The child, chimneysweeper, the unfortunate soldier and the harlot are victims of a system which is based on fear, not on brotherhood.


Subject Matter :

In the Poem, Blake presents his views about London society. He shows the evils of modern civilization. The poet is pained to see the miserable condition of the poor people living in the great city of London.

The Poem begins with a walk through the chatered streets of London. Wherever he went and saw marks of weakness and pains on every face. The poet hears men and women crying.

Everywhere, He hears cries of pains and sufferings. On analysing, He finds the cause of all these sufferings. It was all due to society. He convinced that Men made repression. It came from man’s mind.

“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.”

Poet says that chartered liberty on which people prided themselves is of no use when people are living painful and miserable life. He comes to the conclusion that present society is responsible for such a horrible situation.

“The mind-forg’d manacles I hear “

‘Manacles’ literally means chains for the hands or feet. Figuratively it means ‘repressions’. Mind-forged means caused or produced by men.

Blake was convinced that repressions is caused by man’s mind. Poet hears ‘Mind forgid manacles’ which is the important phrase. The whole earth is chained by social injustice.

Blake hears the call of a chimney sweeper. He sees the blackening church and imagines that churches are turning pale with shame or pity.

“How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,”

He also hears the sighs of the hopeless soldiers. The Court has punished him.

“And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls”

When the poet walks in the streets at mid night, He hears the cries of young harlot. The marriage law of society forced on them this ugly profession.

“But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse,”

The Poet says that people are not the victims of physical diseases, they are suffering from social diseases. The prostitute gives birth to a child who will be a burden on society. They will have no future in the world.

The prostitute’s curses call down a plague on conjugal love. A loveless marriage is nothing but a dead body.

“Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.”

Thus, Social Injustice is the cause of all evils. it is the curse of modern civilization.


Imagery :

Blake also uses distinct images in this poem. He uses images like the blackening church. the youthful harlot, the child-chimney sweeper and the marriage hearse.

The image in the ‘Blackening Church appals’ is very suggestive. Here ‘the word – ‘appals’ is very suggestive.


Simplicity :

Blake’s songs are very simple. it is like nursery rhymes but on the other hand. it has complexity as the Gospels. Blake emphasizes the all round suffering that he uses or writes the word ‘ Every’ five times in the secong stanza.

“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 “


Shameful Picture of Society :

In Blake’s Poem, there is no moral. He only shows the shameful picture of society.

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

In this Poem, Blake sympathises with the child chimney sweeper, the soldier and youthful harlot. There is one thing common in them, Each shows the shameful picture of society.

The chimney sweeper’s condemned life is supportd by the church. The soldier’s death is demanded by the court and the harlot’s calling is forced on her by the marriage laws. Thus, Blake hates the church, the court and social laws that he sees in society.


Conclusions :

Thus, Blake’s Poem presents his tragic appreciation of society. The title of the poem is most suitable. The poet does not describe the miseries of the city of London. London is the symbole of rich and prosperous city but in which people suffer from mind forged manacles.

Poet presents his criticism of society, of the whole trend of modern civilization. His heart was out raged and wounded by the sufferings caused by society. These miseries kill the living spirit.


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