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Romantic poetry

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1317
  • Category: Poetry

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Both William Blake and William Wordsworth express their views of London in their poems. However they both have very divergent views. Blake describes London as formidable and appalling. This could be because Blake is describing the east-end of London where people struggled in pour conditions, laboured in difficult jobs and in a poor environment. Blake also wrote his poem, ‘London’ during the Napoleonic wars.

Also during the 1970s Blake associated himself with some of the more prominent radical thinkers and writers in England. Blake had independent views about politics which are evident even in his first book, ‘To the Muses’. Blake also seemed to have an incident with a guard in which he was accused of sedition and was charged. This evidently proves that Blake was strongly against the government of that current time. All of this could have had a major effect on his writing.

On the other hand Wordsworth describes London as ravishing. The cause of this could be because the area Wordsworth is describing is in the west end of the city where the aristocracy lived who would own palaces near royal residences (like the king himself) and worked as politicians, service workers, coach makers and dancing masters. Also in August 1802 Wordsworth finally met his daughter Caroline after 10 years which inspired him a lot. When Wordsworth composed his poem it was in the morning. This is evidently proven in the poem when he says

“All bright and glittering in the smokeless air”

This means that the air was clear and it was early morning and if he composed his poem at any other time of the day then maybe he would have different opinions of London than of that he has described in his poem. Also the period of time in which he composed his poem was a period in which there was a brief seize fire in the Napoleonic wars so the country must have been much more peaceful.

Blake starts his poem ‘London’ in a very negative way by saying

“I wander through each chartered street,

Near were the chartered Thames dose flow”

In this phrase he is describing the streets and the river Thames as ‘Chartered’ because they are full of laws. The cause of this was because the river Thames and the area surrounding it was generally known as the heart of the capital. Everyone crowded it for its obvious uses, its easy access to water and that it was also a convenient way of transporting goods in and out. The constant use of the river is most probably the reason why the government passed laws controlling the ships; where and when they can dock and for how long. Among these ships there would be those ships that would be travelling all the way to Australia carrying some of London’s worse criminals who would be seen being police escorted through the streets and towards the river, wearing shackles on their legs and manacles on their wrist.

Wordsworth starts his poem ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge September 3rd 1802’ in a very consummate way by saying

“Earth has nothing to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

a sight so touching in it majesty”

In the first few phrases he uses hyperbole when he says

“Earth has nothing to show more fair”

This phrase is hyperbolic because London is definitely not the most beautiful sight in the world. Blake also makes use of hyperbole when he says

“And the hapless solders sigh

Runs in blood down palace walls”

Blake is using hyperbole here because the solders blood is not really running down palace walls, what he is trying to say is that the palace is responsible for the death of all the solders. Blake was known to have a vivid imagination. When he was nine, he told his parents that he had seen “a tree filled angels” on one of his walks, and later reported a similar vision of “angelic features walking.” Blake never really outgrew theses visions. He was past fifty when he described seeing the rising sun as, “an incredible company of the heavenly host crying, Holy Holy Holy is the lord almighty”.

In the second stanza of Blake’s poem he’s describing the feelings of others when he says

“In every cry of every man

In every infants cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mined-forged manacles I hear”

The last line of this stanza is ambiguous because one idea is that you would see prisoners wearing manacles on their hands and shackles on their legs. Another idea is that because of all the laws and all the rules the people of London felt repressed in other words under political imprisonment and would blame the government for this. On the forth line of the first stanza in Wordsworth’s poem he says

“The city now doth, like a garment wear”

Wordsworth uses both simile and personification in his imagery here because what he is trying to say is that just like humans were garments to make them look beautiful, the morning is beautifying the city like a garment.

The third stanza in Blake’s poem is extremely iron because he says

“How the chimney sweepers cry

Every blackening church appalls”

|Here Blake is trying to say that the church is becoming more and more corrupt which is ironic because they are meant to be an institute of good but in the poem they are encouraging child labour such as chimney sweeping which caused children sometimes to suffer sicknesses such as deformed joints, burns and testicular cancer. This line is also ambiguous because it could mean that on one hand that the church is becoming corrupt or it would mean simply that the church is becoming black in colour by all the pollution of the city.

The irony of the stanza is further emphasized when Blake says

“And the hapless solders sigh

Runs in blood down palace walls”

What he is trying to say is that all the deaths of the solders are the responsibility of no one else except for the palace which is also meant to be an institute of good.

In the second stanza of Wordsworth’s poem he describes the man made beauties of the city and because this is a sonnet you will notice that on the 8th line he changes the subject from man made beauties to natural scenery. In the last stanza of Blake’s poem he is pessimistic about the future when he says

“But most through the midnight streets I hear

How the youthful harlots curse

Blast the newborn infants tear,

And blights with plagues marriages hearse”.

What he is trying to say in this stanza is that the future of the city is very dark because people are no longer getting married because they are choosing to go to prostitutes to fulfill their desires instead. Another interpretation is that prostitutes are cursing families to break up and become of the obvious contempt a wife would feel at her husband’s disloyalty.

In this stanza he is also ambiguous when he says

“Youthful harlots curse”

One meaning is that the prostitutes are cursing their children and another meaning could be that their sexual behavior is putting a curse on the whole city because diseases are spreading as a result. These ideas are further supported by the final line,

“and blights with plagues marriages hearse”

‘Marriages hearse’ is also a paradox because hearse means a funeral car and when you put it together with ‘marriages’ it doesn’t seem to make sense. But if you go deeper in the meaning you will come to understand that he is trying to say that marriages are dying.

In the last two lines of Wordsworth’s poem he uses personification when he says

“Dear god the very houses seem asleep;

And the mighty heart is lying still”

He describes the houses like they are sleeping. And London like it is lying which all contributes to the theme of restfulness running through the poem.

He describes London as the ‘mighty heart’ because the heart is the main organ of the human body and so is the city the main city in the country.

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