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London by William Blake

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William Blake, London

London by William Blake is a poem characterised by its dark and overbearing tone. It is a glimpse at a period of England’s history (particularly London) during war and poverty, experienced by the narrator as he walks through the streets. Using personification it draws a great human aspect to its representation of thoughts and beliefs of the narrator.

The author uses a rhyme scheme that mirrors the pace of walking. The pace is moderate using an octameter meter, and each stressed syllable is like each footfall of the narrator. As he walks through the streets near the near the River Thames, he notices the common distress in the faces of the people he passes along the way. The author uses alliteration in line four, “marks”, “weakness” and “woe”. It draws emphasis on the feeling of severity and the widespread effect on these people.

The narrator starts to envision that the people around him are all chained in “manacles”. They are enslaved by the country and disastrous world they live in. Their fears, curses (“ban”) and cries of their current state are shared. The word “mind-forg’d” gives one the feeling that these people’s minds have formed these ‘shackles’ that inhibit them. The author states this by starting lines five to seven with “In every”, and repeating the word “every”. He emphasises the fact that every man, woman and child is affected by this shared state. Personification in the words “Man” and “Infant” draws importance to the general race/gender meaning of the words, further strengthening this universal aspect of his idea.

The third stanza expands on the idea of this shared ‘mental slavery’. The narrator speaks of what could symbolise the lower or working class (“the Chimney-sweeper”), crying out against the system, and the upper class (“Church”) subduing them. Both the chimney and church are personified to symbolise the people they represent. This dominance is also related in the personification of “Soldier” and “Palace”. The soldiers fight the wars that the monarchy decides,

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