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London is one of the most striking poems of William Blake. In the poem Blake protests against social, religions and political injustice. Later Wordsworth in his London 1802 wishes Milton were living in the period to redeem England from the deterioration it has undergone. The modern poet T.S. Eliot has also portrayed the cultural collapse of London in The Waste Land. In London,Blake attacks the hollowness of society and the helplessness of the Church. 

The poem reflects the society and conditions of life in the later 18th century London. The speaker of the poem paces through the streets of London and notices the face of his fellowmen that pass by him and finds their countenance discoloured by feebleness. He finds in the cries of children and men the replica of men’s own sinful deeds. He also notices that men are fettered by the chains they have forged for themselves. 

In the poem London Blake gives us his own view of that “Liberty’ on which his countrymen prided themselves and he exposes the ugly, indisputable facts. The chimney sweeper, the soldier, and the harlot are Blake’s types of the oppressed characteristic victims of a system based not on brotherhood but on fear. Each in his own way shows up the shams on which society thrives. The poet hears the cries of the chimney sweepers which appal the helpless Church. The sighs of the dying soldier whose blood flows down the palace walls are audible to the poet. At midnight the curses of the young harlots are heard in the streets and this spoils the holy tie between the wife and husband in their marital life. It is the loveless marriage that causes man to seek a harlot. It becomes also a curse for the young child that is born either from the marriage or from the adultery. 

Blake’s London is a typical of the world of experiences, with the noise of cries and curse it resembles hell. Instead of the echoing green we have an echoing inferno which is “bloody”; mishaps and misfortunes are marks of this city. The woeful cry of the unfortunate chimney-sweepers is a sham on the Church. In the poem Blake lays stress on the irresponsibility of the Church. The Church has the duty of protecting its members. But the chimney sweepers are not even allowed to enter the churches and to pray. The Church turns a blind eye on their plight. 

Rather than a poem of protest London is also a picture of a mental state of the inhabitants of London. The woe and weariness of the dwellers of London strike the notes of pessimism. The London society is corrupt. It is the corruption of civilisation by the power of reason whose self-imposed manacles have restricted every spontaneous joy. The street cries of the chimney sweepers loudly accuse the Church and the death sighs of the soldier stain the state. Love itself is negated and this negation degenerates the holy marriage bed into a blighted hearse. 

Much of the power of this poem’s denunciation derives directly from its form. London is basically written in iambic tetrameter, lines of eight syllables each, divided into four iambic feet, but no fewer than eight of the sixteen lines do not fit this pattern. 


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