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Poetry Analysis- London

How does Blake use language to create a sense of place in the poem ‘London'? 800
‘LONDON' by William Blake, is the only few poems in the Songs of Experience that
does not has a corresponding poem in the Songs of Innocence, and the topic of this
poem stands out since it is unlike most of the poems in the book about nature and
happiness. This poem was written in 1794 during the French Revolution, which
portrays Blake's emotion towards the situation France was in. In "London", Blake uses
stark contrast, effective repetition, vivid hyperbole, and a significant rhyming pattern
to create a sense of place.
Firstly, Blake utilizes contrasting words in the first stanza to establish a sense of
oppression shadowing the city of London. The poem starts off with the verb ‘wander',
which is a word that means to walk around aimlessly, but Blake uses the word ‘charter'd'
to describe the street, which, on the contrary, shows control and rigidness. This contrast
between these two words exhibits the change of the author's mood from nature to urban
because the poems he wrote were mostly about nature, but once he "wander" through
the city as he was in the nature, things changed completely. In the next line, as Blake
describes the flowing Thames River, he repeats the same unfeeling, stern word,
"charter'd". This further emphasizes the existing contrast, as even free-flowing rivers
are characterized to be "charter'd" in this oppressed city. Therefore, through
contradicting diction, Blake establishes a gloom sense of place in "London", a place
that seemed to have a suffocating, suppressing, invisible hand pushing down on its
miserable people.
Blake also utilizes repetition in the next stanzas to emphasize the fear and horror
prevalent in the city. The repetition of the words ‘charter'd' and ‘marks' emphasizes the
oppression and restriction undertaking the city. Follow up by stanza two, the repetition
of the word ‘every' emphasizes the prevalence of pain that the people in the city are
suffering, and it is again portraying that every single corner in the entire city is
undergoing this pain and suffering. In all these "every…every…" scenarios presented
in the poem, such as the “cry of every man”, the “Infant’s cry of fear”, “in every voice”,
and “in every ban”, this emphasizes how common it is for the people to suffer through
this condition. Additionally, these lines are in parallel structure, which highlights the
importance of the ‘mind-forg'd manacles' for the author thinks that not only the whole
city is oppressed, but also the people's minds as well. Their inner thoughts try to lose
themselves from the manacles so desperately that the author can actually hear and feel
it. Blake uses this to create an inanimate sense towards the place ‘London' as he lucidly
depicts the detail within the city during that time period. Through the repetition used,
Blake emphasizes the prevalence of the pain, suffering, and vividly depicts London’s
state of oppression, not only of the regulations, but also of the mind.
In the third stanza, Blake also uses hyperbole to elucidate the dire consequences of this
suffering. He uses two significant cause and effect relationships to illustrate this. In
“London”, chimney-sweepers cry” directly results in “blackened church appalls" and
"soldiers sigh” directly results in the “palace walls run blood”. The subjects of these
causal relationships are both are at a low social status, the subject they affect, however,
are country-ruling entities such as the church and the palace. Blake is showing here that
a person with such low social stature can cause the higher class to collapse. The pain
and agony that the lower class is suffering through reflect on the corrupted environment
they were in, which establish the sense of place as dark and evil. Everything impacts
each other, just like how the lower class can impact the higher class, there is an
unending chain in the nature that will always come back and destroys the initiator.
Lastly, Blake uses a significant rhyming pattern throughout the poem to emphasize that
sense of oppression. It is clear that the entire poem follows an ABAB rhyming structure.
This rhyme does not give the poem a sense of euphonic, musical flow, but rather further
emphasizes a sense of oppression. This language imitates the state of the city, which is
in a way that is rigid as things are restricted in order, and that just creates even a stronger
sense of hardship. Even the language used by the poet corresponds to his surroundings,
to a place that is full of suffering, oppression, and pain.
In conclusion, Blake uses different ways to depict the sense of place when he was
experiencing the revolution. He achieves that by using effective contrast, impactful
repetition, valuable hyperbole, and a significant rhyming pattern.