A Reading of William Blake’s London
William Blake channels his general dissatisfaction of the organization of society during the late eighteenth century in his lyrical poem entitled “London” (1794). Blake uses vividly expressive language through the spoken observations of a symbolic character he created to narrate and recite social and political problems afflicting this metropolis in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The poem’s rhythmically patterned linear style, which is very strictly structured, reinforces its central theme: that oppression will be revisited. Blake’s use of such elements of poetry as setting and situation, diction and tone, structure and form, symbols and images, sound and rhyme, and rhythm and meter to convey this strong message of political and social importance.
The title of the poem, coupled with the first stanza, establishes the setting in London (England) and describes the social environment that frames the characters (the city’s residents) and their surroundings. The title designates the exact location of the setting and immediately informs the reader that it takes place in London. Although the lyric is written in first-person singular, the speaker is not the poet. Blake sensibly creates a persona that expresses subjective thoughts and expressions to refer to the speaker’s personal experiences in order to emphasize penetrating resonance of the poem’s diction. “London” reflects the period in which it was written by depicting the very image of most of urban life during the period of Romanticism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many of the libertarian movements during this period were induced by the romantic philosophy, or the desire to be free of convention and tyranny, and …
…illiam Blake’s use of the elements of poetry balances the sense and sounds of his poem. I found the closely structured organization of the poem to be very useful in understanding its meaning through its form. The persona which Blake created provided me with a lively depiction of the narrator’s experience, which is much more than I could have ever visualized. At first I was pretty disappointed in the conclusion of Blake’s poem; however, after rereading it over and over again, I realized that it is obligatory in order to restate, once again, the central theme of “London.” Consequently, I can not think of a more suitable way to depict the terrible effects that an authoritative government has on a society!
Blake, William. “London.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. MichaelMeyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 609.