We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

A Symbolic Analysis of William Blake’s “London”

The whole doc is available only for registered users
  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 941
  • Category: Poems

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

In his reflection “London,” William Blake laments the poverty faced by the lower class of modern, industrialized London, and he can find no note of consolation or hope for their future. The poet uses this theme to dramatically depict the conditions in which the oppressed lower class is forced to live; he develops the theme through the use of sounds, symbolism, and an ironic twist of words in the last line that expresses Blake’s ultimate belief in the hopelessness of the situation. The poem is dominated by a rigid iambic meter that mirrors the rigidity and immutability of the lives of the poor and the oppressive class system.

………The first stanza begins with the poet describing himself walking through the “charter’d” streets of the city near the “charter’d” Thames-every aspect of the city has been sanctioned and organized by the ruling class-seeing expressions of weakness and woe on the faces of all the people he meets. The streets and the river make up a network that has been laid out and chartered by the wealthy class to control the poor. The poet walks among the poor, participating in the drudgery of their daily lives; he feels their misery as they endlessly struggle to survive as pawns of the class system.

………In the second stanza Blake describes how in every voice of every person he perceives their “mind-forg’d manacles.” The people are trapped, prisoners of the rigid class system that has been “forged” in the minds of the elite class, whose members have taken measures to prevent their wealth from ever reaching the poverty-stricken rabble. This and all later stanzas focuses on the sounds that Blake hears, particularly the cries of the poor, as he walks through the city.

………The third stanza marks a change in tone to a more abstract, symbolic depiction of a “black’ning Church” being “appalled” by the “Chimney-sweeper’s cry,” and the sigh of a “hapless Soldier” running in “blood down Palace walls.” The Church is depicted as being allied with the insensitive elite class: the pleas of the chimney-sweeper, who is blackened with the soot of oppression and doomed to die young of lung disease, are spurned by the Church-the supposed source of pity and relief to the suffering-and in the process the Church “blackens” itself.

The institution has become hypocritical because, while it still preaches pity, it fails to offer any remedy to the oppression of the poor. The soldier, who should be a symbol of the strength and glory of England, is nothing more than another poverty-stricken human, and so the depiction of his sigh running in blood down palace walls symbolizes that the beauty and glory of England-the palace-is marred and made grotesque by the oppression of the soldier class.

………The fourth and final stanza returns to a slightly more concrete depiction of what “most thro’ midnight streets [he] hear[s]”: the “youthful Harlot’s curse” not only “blasts the new born infant’s tear,” but also “blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.” The unusual, poignant juxtaposition of “marriage” with “hearse” brings the mood of hopelessness to a peak; as a result of sexually transmitted diseases, marriage and sex are now connected with death, not life.

………”London” is written in a heavily iambic meter that remains rigid throughout, emphasizing the drudgery and immutability of the lives of the people Blake observes as he walks through the streets. Blake’s walk itself is chartered and deliberate, and the rhythm of the poem is as tyrannical and stagnant as the class system whose oppression it describes. Each stanza is further organized by a rigid “ABAB” rhyming structure-the rhyming words at the end of each line end in many r’s, w’s, and l’s that bend the sound of the vowels and give the words a heavy, plaintive, woeful, tone.

For example: “How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry/ Every black’ning Church appalls;/ And the hapless Soldier’s sigh/ Runs in blood down Palace walls.” Intermixed with these plaintive sounds are words with sharp consonants and short syllables that seem to convey Blake’s spite for the horrible system, for example, “Every black’ning Church appalls” and “. . . blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.” Not only is Blake saddened by the London scene, he is angry and spiteful that the elite class maintains it in an organized way designed to retain the wealth for the wealthy. Therefore Blake’s ultimate purpose for the poem is to protest the organized, chartered system of keeping the poor in a hopeless struggle for survival.

………Blake wrote “London” two hundred years ago, to protest the oppressive class system of the city he lived in, and yet his message is very easy to understand today. The fact is that there are many places in the world today where the poor are treated in much the same way as the people of London two hundred years ago. It is not a small-scale phenomenon-hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken people continue to struggle through the trials of daily survival, and their suffering weighs heavily on our consciences. The high standard of living we enjoy in the United States is a result of the fact that we, along with other powerful industrialized and developed nations, control most of the wealth and markets of the world. The United States alone controls 25% of the world’s wealth with only 6% of its population. Every extra dollar we spend on ourselves to further raise our standard of living helps perpetuate the world’s current economic system that, like the class system of England two hundred years ago, offers little hope of a better life to the great majority of suffering poor.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59