The folllowing sample essay on London William Blake discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
This essay will look at the two poems “London” by William Blake and “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” by William Wordsworth. It will compare and look at the differences between the mood and general message given by the two poems. Both poems are set in London and describe a day in the life of London.
Reading the two poems the reader realises how the poets’ different experiences of London clearly influence the way they picture the city. William Wordsworth’s poem “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” is all about London’s beauty and all of its glory.
He describes it as if it was far away and is looking at it like a landscape. It is thought that the poem was actually written on Westminster Bridge or the idea came to him when on the bridge.
Whereas Wordsworth’s London describes London as a beautiful, silent and calm place, “London” by William Blake takes a much darker turn describing a cruel, dark and impoverished London where everyone is miserable, fearful and young girls are forced into prostitution. Blake, who lived in London, wanted to highlight the way people were living and wanted it to change.
Wordsworth was a pantheist which means he believed god was in nature and everything living, and not in a church with expensive ornaments. He looked at London from a more relaxed angle and not as close-up as Blake who described people and streets rather than buildings.
The 2 poets are both describing the same place, but with different opinions and subjects. Blake’s opening line is “I wander through each chartered street”. The first line shows that he disapproves of the streets of London for being so busy.
He focuses on the people walking through the streets and how they all seem to be unhappy or ill. “Marks of weakness, marks of woe”. He shows us London at its worst, with children of all ages working as chimney sweeps in dangerous conditions and young prostitutes ending up with unwanted births. He shows us a London in which people would not want to live in and which needs to change for the better. “Every blackening church appals, and the hapless soldier’s sigh”.
This line from the poem shows that he is suggesting it is the Church’s fault for turning a blind eye to the suffering around them, and also the government’s for not getting the soldiers to help the public and keep order. This, compared with Wordsworth’s message, which is soothing and describes London as a beautiful, calm place, is very contradictory. This would make readers think about how the writers’ different experiences would have a big impact on the message and imagery of the poems. In Wordsworth’s poem he sounds inspired by London and its beauty.
He talks about how London blends into the countryside; “theatres and temples lie open unto the fields”. He also describes the river; “the river glideth at his own sweet will” whereas Blake describes it as: “near where the chartered Thames does flow”. These 2 quotes show the very different opinions of the poets. Wordsworth also talks about the marvellous buildings showing the best of mankind’s achievements. The structure of Blake’s poem is quite simple with a nursery rhyme style. He uses simple rhyming couplets but he conveys a complex message with it.
In the poem he builds up the tension, despair and bad imagery and ends with the line: “blights with plague the marriage hearse”. This quote suggests that Blake thinks that in the hard life of London it is hard – maybe even pointless – to have a marriage. Another message of despair for London in the poem is in the 3rd stanza where there is an acrostic that reads “HEAR”. This is another way of reaching out to the reader asking them to help London. Wordsworth has written his poem as a sonnet which is more commonly used for lovers or something of high praise.
He, like Blake, brings his poem to a climax but his is of wonder and amazement at what he sees around him. Wordsworth uses enjambment in his poem so that the lines run over each other making it calmer and reflective, very different from Blake’s short repetitive lines which sound sadder. There are some strong emotions shown by the writers in each poem. Such as Blake whose anger shows throughout the poem with words such as: blackening, curse and weakness. He is unhappy and angry with society and wants to scare and shock the reader into doing something about the problem.
Wordsworth’s emotions are more of awe at the sight before him. His poem is slow and calm but grows to a climax where he is excited to just talk about London. This is shown by the exclamation marks in the last few lines of the poem. Blake’s use of repetition in his poem is quite effective with imagery and tone. The repetition of chartered gives the sense that if both the river and streets are chartered, is there such a place where it is calm in London? When he repeats the words “marks”, it gives the idea that everyone on the street is ill and in need of help and has been marked in a way by London.
In the 2nd stanza with the repetition of “every” he describes how he hears the mind-forged manacles where everyone must suffer and be subjected to the same pointless tasks if they are to survive. Blake makes good use of dark colours in his poem; they help with the imagery of a cruel and violent London, the dark colours help to convey feelings of corruption and the midnight curses and tears give a sense of chaos. Wordsworth on the other hand uses soothing, calm similes and personification, such as: “the river glideth at his own sweet will”.
He uses this language instead of strong metaphors like Blake uses. His last line reads: “And all that mighty heart is lying still! “. Maybe with the words mighty heart he is suggesting that London is the heart of Britain and that he is amazed that something so vital could be stationary. In this poem, Blake is trying to shock readers into action, and I believe it is essentially a plea to the people who can actually make the difference, like the government, rich businessmen and royals. He describes all the bad points of London with no sign of anything worth seeing there, almost like a warning.
For me it has made me realise that things were a lot worse than I thought. It’s also made me realise that things in London in the present day haven’t changed much. The roads are actually chartered in central London with an expensive congestion charge, the rivers have strict rules for boats and moorings, many people have a very low income and can only just get by. This is even with a policy called London Weighting, which means people will earn higher wages than they would for doing the same job somewhere outside of London, due to the high cost of living in London.
Of course, in this day and age, there isn’t any child prostitution on the streets because of the law now but there is a lot of illegal adult prostitution all over London. Blake was delivering a message to readers of poverty and corruption within the government and, with people like Blake, the situation has come to change where there is a proper police force that helps the needy and a church where people can go for help and support. I think it was quite brave of him to do this because of the ways people who wanted change for the common people often got into trouble or were killed by the government and church so as not to start rebellions.
Wordsworth’s poem, in contrast to Blake’s poem and message, seems almost naive. This is because he looks at the city and is in awe of its beauty and splendour, but he describes it as if there could be no wrong in London at all, looking at a picture of it and can’t see the pain, suffering and unpleasantness in the streets. Personally, if it wasn’t for his pantheist beliefs, it would feel as though he had been told to write it by a higher authority so as to describe only the parts of London which weren’t affected by misery and poverty.