William Blake’s London Analysis
London, a song from Blake’s Songs of Experience, is an exceptional poem from him. This is, no doubt, a child’s song, but contains much graver matters of social wrongs and evils.
Indeed, this short poem of four stanzas is a powerful poem that is a restraint utterance of one who sees imperfection and depravity in human society and feels intensely the sorrows of people in general under the iron chariot wheels of the powerful church and the tyrannical political authority.
Of course, the speaker is not the poet himself. The song is given out through a child, who is represented originally in the illustration that was found to accompany the poem. The boy’s song is made to echo the poet’s stark realization of the hard social truth. He exposes and laments here over the three great evils that sap the very vitals of social justice, harmony and happiness. These evils are cruelty typified by the sweep boy, forced to do a hazardous job, whose bitter cry is a reproach to the church.
The second evil is war, typified by the disabled soldier, whose sigh is a reproach to the political authority, persons in power and position. Finally, there is the evil of lust typified by the harlot’s midnight curse that pollutes conjugality and breeds contempt in family life and relationship. The poet’s thoughts here have depth, beneath the smooth, easy flowing surface.
With its depth of thought, the poem displays its deft poetic artistry. In its imagery, right choice of poetic diction, and melodious versification, the poem marks Blake’s poetic genius. Blake’s images are vivid, but easy and precise. The images of the chartered Thames flowing at its sweet will, the exhausted and sorrowful faces of the weeping chimney sweeper, the blackening church, the blood-stained palace, and the youthful harlot’s curses through midnight streets may be mentioned in this connection.
Poetic diction is simple and appropriate enough, as seen in the use of ‘marriage hearse’. The poem has four stanzas of four lines each with alternate lines rhyming. The lines are in iambic tetrameter.