London Poem by Blake: Why it’s So Powerful

London poem by William Blake cover image

The London that you see today was not always so jovial and clean and filled with people rushing to get to work, but it was one of the most dangerous, dark, and impoverished places during the time literary giants such as Blake, Dickens were flourishing. The London poem is a window into that England where people had a lot less to laugh and a lot more to cry about. 

The dark alleys of the maze called London and the people living the lives of rats are enough to strike a horrid image about the lives of the people there. Add the eloquence and powerful delivery of Blake’s writing and you have this poem. Take a look;

London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,

In every Infant’s cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry

Every blackning Church appalls;

And the hapless Soldier’s sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlot’s curse

Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Walking in London

Blake takes us on a journey through the roads of London via this poem and talks about the things he sees and hears. 

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

Walking down the streets of London, through the same router where the famous river Thames flows. And while he is on this road, he sees faces passing by and every face has marked sorrow or woefulness. Not a smiling face is seen. This is indicative of the terrible lives of the people in London. 

In every cry of every man,

In every Infant’s cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

Not only do your eyes are subjected to this emotional pain of seeing wretched faces, but your ears are flooded with painful wailings, both in the forms of speech and screams. But there’s more than that.

No matter what the person is, be it a grown adult or an infant, he can sense the presence of a “mind-forged” manacle. A shackle that is created by their thoughts, showing how repressed, both mentally and socially these people are. Laws and crime have repressed these people. 

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry

Every blackning Church appalls;

And the hapless Soldier’s sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls.

Since the industrial revolution took away many jobs, most of the menial workforce was forced to take any job they could to survive. The first line is for them, using the chimney sweeper as the example, these workers working in appalling conditions suffered lung and skin diseases. But they had no other choice but to work in dust and sacrifice their bodies to fill their stomach. 

Even the buildings like the Church were covered in the ugly black sooty smoke from the dark Satanic mills. The Palace which stood so strong and high amongst crumbling people had blood oozing and from down its walls. The blood was of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives and died in the battleground. There is just gloominess and death all around the city. 

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlot’s curse

Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

And when the world is supposed to sleep, this is the time when the streets are the coarsest, loudest, and unbearably melancholic. A very impactful picture is created by the poet. 

London poem by William Blake
London poem by William Blake

Blake hears the curse of a prostitute, working in pitiful conditions. And he is not the only one to hear the curses.

The crying infant also hears this. What this shows is how people lived, in tight spaces with no peace. Blake ends the poem with perhaps the most powerful line; And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse. 

Plagues the marriage hearse. A hearse is a vehicle that carries dead bodies. The juxtapositioning of marriage and hearse shows what the message of the poem is. In every happiness, in every joy, there is pain and death associated with these unfortunate people.

This concludes the article. But that shouldn’t end the reading spree. If you liked this poem, you’ll love some more William Blake’s poems. Take a look at some of out favorites;

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *