William Blake is well-known as a poet-thinker and a poet-philosopher. The interest in the personality of this poet arose not instantly. Almost two centuries had passed until this happened. Blake himself, as well as his poetry, are still frequently researched and analyzed.
William Blake is the one who showed a new path to poetry, to philosophical poetry that sounded innovative for the era in which the poet lived. Blake’s heritage is an endless source of inspiration for representatives of artistic, philosophical and poetic thought, this extraordinary philosophical depth is not conceived yet.
William Blake’s poem “London” is included in the cycle of poems “Songs of Experience”, written in 1794. With his own mythology, Blake, in this cycle of poetry, reveals a dualism of perception of the world, with a painful touch of disappointment in the development of the French Revolution.
Undoubtedly, the poem “London” clearly traces the breakdown of epochs and expresses a sense of lostness in the world, the disunity of the lies of church doctrines, the bankruptcy of the deified Mind. The philosophical lyrics of the work are filled with social motives. Blake feels them very acutely because he himself came from a large family of a shopkeeper. The life of the streets is known to Blake firsthand.
The linear composition of the poem, the comparison of stanzas, adds realism to the images presented by Blake. One gets the impression that the “aimlessly walking” author leads us through the working areas of London, showing the social conditions of the “lower classes”. The feeling of despair, the inability to improve anything can be heard in the first lines. The feeling is aggravated with every stanza.
From the “faces” Blake goes on to “screams,” intensifying depression with “sighs.” The top point of this “dark” picture is the kid’s tears. The use of such metaphorical images as the soldier’s sigh, running in the blood, an “explosion” of tears, newly married catafalques only intensify the oppressive situation.
Cross-rhyme, the disyllabic dimensions used by Blake, give greater dynamism and energy. Yamb, considered a more universal size, starts a poem and is observed in the second stanza. The most dynamic and vigorous chorus “picks up” the third string, pumping social problems. The author’s point of view is mixed with the fourth stanza.
In the first stanza, Blake notes the impossibility to change being, to break through the numerous barriers to social conventions, which he opens through the lines about the Thames that is strictly marked on the map. This impossibility is reflected on faces with traces of grief. But the author’s verdict is that not only the current reality but the weakness of people is guilty of the harsh social conventions.
In confirmation of this, in the second stanza, Blake notes that restrictions are “forged” in the minds of people. The third stanza, in addition to continuing the development of the conflict of lack of freedom, also expresses the negative attitude of William Blake to the official church. The apogee of despair, the inability to break the “vicious circle” is displayed in the fourth stanza.
Everything will take place again and again: the wedding catafalques poisoned with plague, an explosion of a newborn’s tears, etc. Everything presents a closed circle, an inability to overcome these barriers, “forged” in the heads of people.
- Constantakis, Sara. A Study Guide to William Blake’s “London”. Poetry for Students, Vol. 40, 2012.
- “London (William Blake poem).” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_(William_Blake_poem). Edited on 25 March 2018.