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Blake's "London": An Explication Poet: William Blake Piece: "London"

1003 words - 4 pages

William Blake's "London" (1794) manifests the recognizable Romantic contempt and derision for a class-based, industrially driven society that relentlessly experiences the horror of oppression, injustice, hypocrisy, and child labor. This literary piece also captures the Romantic emphasis on the fact that nature is being manipulated by the industry, which is one of the impacts of the Industrial Revolution. The speaker describes the Thames River, a symbol of nature, as being "chartered" or artificially channeled. The description evokes the image of the Thames bounded by its shores but also suggests that humans are harnessing the river. A possible reason for the manipulation could be for industrial purposes to drive machines such as steam engines, a product of the Industrial Revolution.As the speaker wanders through the streets of London, he describes the faces of the people he sees: "...mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe." The industrial boom of the eighteenth century has changed the people's working conditions. They are working for long hours to earn a living. The impact of the lifestyle has left them fatigued, indicated by the "marks of weakness" on the faces of the people, whom represent the working class. The problem of labor also extends to the children in the poem, indicated by the "chimney-sweeper" being forced into work. The chimneysweeper is a popular symbol of child labor, as the work involved is laborious and harsh. Alike other child-laborers, the sweeper is given a difficult and dangerous task of removing soot from the chimneys to again, earn a living for his family. The use of the chimneysweeper and the "weakness" of the peasants illustrate the impact of the work conditions brought by the Industrial Revolution in London.Blake as an early romantic poet tends to appeal to emotions more than practicality in his poems; consequently, the speaker does so too. He defines citizens by the repression and injustice in their lives. The Industrial Revolution has had a negative impact on the people and has brought unhappiness to the people, as seen with the "marks of woe" on the faces of the people: "In every cry of every Man, / In every Infant's cry of fear, / In every voice, in every ban." The repetition of the word "every" denotes the universal suffering of the working class brought down by the Revolution. The suffering also relates to widespread poverty. The overworked peasants of the city indicated by the poem are seen to struggle for income. They earn little, many of them are in poverty, and their grief is possibly indicated with their faces "of woe."In the third stanza, the speaker describes the "black'ning church." On of hand, the church is becoming black because of its filthy surroundings, but it is also possible to equate the action of becoming black, to the act of becoming evil as the churches of time were seen as being. Similarly the use of the word "appalls" can mean to be horrified, as the church would have...

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