Reflection of William Blake's Attitude to Society in the Poem 'London'

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Romanticism was the period of time which extended from 1750 to 1870. The major areas in the world vanguarding the movement were Europe, United States of America and Latin America. This movement was countering the rules of law formulas and was embracing imagination, subjectivity, freedom, expression and idealization of nature. During the Romanticism many writers were involved such as William Blake, William Wordsworth and others. They showed their support to the movement through illustrations and writings. Romanticism preferred the use of mental images and creativity over reality and facts. While the Enlightenment and Romanticism took place in the same period, their emphasis and subjects of interest were completely different and their intellectuals were different as well.

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William Blake's poem ‘London’ explores how everyone has feelings and everyone has jobs to do. This poem reflects Blake’s feelings toward the society that he lived in. He was describing how controlled and forced a man's daily life is and rebelling to stand for the romanticism. This poem is timeless because it still applies to our lives today, everyone has restrictions and rules to obey by, no matter if free or imprisoned. He outlines his strong belief that the government has too much control and society is too stringent. In this poem, there are a few outdated phrases such as 'charter’d', 'thro’' and “mind forg’d”. “Charter’d” is defined as controlled. In this poem it is describing the man made structures that are constrained by made to a limit/ aren’t made freely or creatively, in london. “Thro’” is the informal or otherwise known as the short version of through. On line 8 it states ‘’The mind-forg'd manacles I hear’’. Blake is exploring and expanding on the point of self-limitation and the denigration of the human imagination. Blake’s point is well tuned to the quote “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”.

The first stanza is setting a background of what the poem is going to consist of. From the start you realize that he uses the technique of rhyming very well by using the A B A scheme. It starts off as him walking through the streets of London near the river Thames. He is looking at peoples faces while walking by and seeing them with the expression of weakness and gloom. In the second stanza he goes more in depth of what people are feeling. He talks about how everyone cries but still end the stanza on everyone still being controlled. Stanza 3 breaks down the daily life. When it talks about chimney sweepers it is referring to kids because back then there wern’t any child labour laws, kids were the only people who could fit in a chimney because of their small physic. The line after this starts with ‘’every blackening’’, which can also lead back to the children getting dirty from all the dust and smoke. Line 10 shows symbolism and it links to the other lines. Blake is putting out the message of the church turning black by the chimney-sweepers and all the soldiers. The final line of the third stanza is just a link to the soldiers putting their lives on the line to protect others. The fourth and final stanza is about the sounds you hear at midnight on London streets. Line 14-15 is about a young prostitute giving birth, cursing her newborns tears.

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Reflection of William Blake’s Attitude to Society in the Poem ‘London’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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