Comparing London by William Blake and Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth
William Blake was born in London in 1757. He was taught by his mother
at home, and became an apprentice to an engraver at fourteen. In
addition to poetry Blake spent much of his time painting. Blake lived
on the edge of poverty and died in neglect. His poetry receiving
little acclaim while he was alive.
‘London’ was written by Blake in 1789. Taken from Blake’s ‘Songs of
Experience’, the style is darker and in a sense depressing. It
describes the city after the Industrial Revolution. Blake takes a very
negative and hopeless view of the city and the lives of those living
within it. He hated the way London was becoming, looking negatively on
business and materialism.
Blake felt himself as free, and the poem is a comment on others living
in London. In the first line of the first stanza, he creates immediate
effect as he contrasts the words ‘wander’ with ‘charter’d’, which he
goes on to use to describe the Thames River in the following line.
Wander suggests a sense of naturally meandering in an open expanse,
contrasting greatly with the latter, which referring to the city
itself, suggests a sense of narrow enclosed in space. This description
leads the reader to envisage a regulated and constrained city, limited
by business and materialism. Blake goes on to describe the ‘charter’d
Thames does flow.’ This is ironic in the sense that any flow seems to
be restricted by the banked in and concreted image of the river that
the poet creates – there is nothing natural or beautiful about the
Thames any longer. Equally Blake’s repetition of the word mark, while
using it for different meaning brings emphasis and effect. He goes on
to present the Londoners as unhappy victims of the industrialised
‘prison’ they are surrounded by.
In the second stanza Blake describes the whole scale of humanity from
infant to man to feel general disgruntlement with the life that London
inflicts upon them. ‘Ban’ suggests restricted or prohibited. Blake
however suggests that men have in a sense designed their own prison,
implying this by use of ‘mind-forg’d manacle’. He describes infants
who cannot speak but are nonetheless born under the chains, which
Blake suggests society has needlessly inflicted upon itself. Again he
creates effect by the repetition of ‘every’.