Comparison of London by William Blake and Westminster Bridge.
“I wander thro’ each chartered street,” this is William Blake, walkingslowly, almost lost, taking notice of everything he sees around him.By ‘chartered’ William Blake can mean two different things, he canmean wealthy and prosperous or he can mean streets that are chartered/ charted on a map, this is better explained in the next line where hespeaks of the ‘chartered’ Thames, giving us the impression that he isin fact speaking of the chartered / charted meaning.
“Near where the chartered Thames does flow,” the second line of thefirst verse sheds some more light on where William Blake actually is,he is on the ‘streets’ by the Thames -London. As London was quitesmall he is probably talking about the whole of London, not just acertain part.
“And mark in every face I meet,
marks of weakness, marks of woe,”
By weakness William Blake again mean two things, he can mean physicalweakness resulting from starvation or hunger and the work they havedone, he can also mean mental weakness, lack of hope or happiness andmaybe lack of intelligence, as many people in those times in thepoor/working class areas may not have gone to school. By ‘woe’ Blakecan mean anguish and despair. Altogether William Blake states that allthe people he meets are glum and/or sad.
“In every cry of every man,
In every infants cry of fear
In every voice, in every ban
The mind-forged manacles I hear”
This is the second of four verses, and it describes what William Blake’hears’ as he ‘wanders thro’ each chartered street.’ He states that inevery mans cry, in every infants cry, in every voice and every sign hecan see the limits set to the people by themselves in the mind and thelack of hope. The limits and lack of hope, I think, stem from themental ‘weakness’ described in the first verse.
“How the chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackening church appals.”
I think that these two opening lines of the third verse have a lot ofmeaning. Chimney-sweepers were often young children who were forced toclimb up/down chimneys to clean them. They often worked long hours andreceived little pay. Then William Blake mentions the ‘blackeningchurch’ – a church is almost like a sanctuary for most people, but forthe chimney-sweepers, there is no rest or sanctuary, no place toforget about there troubles, even the church needs to be cleaned, aplace of purity is tainted and blackened ant the work goes on for thechimney-sweepers.
“And the hapless soldiers cry