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London - William Blake

AQA Anthology - Place
by Elly Farrar on 24 May 2013

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Transcript of London - William Blake

London William Blake Overview An eye-witness account - the poem describes walking through London and the misfortune and misery the poet meets A clear link is made between how people think and how they behave The poem asserts that no one is free from the effects of urban living and shows how religion and authority bear the responsibility for poverty and war Blake makes powerful contrasts and connections between the decaying ideals of civilised society and the unhappy lives of the most vulnerable citizens whose rights were not protected. Context A key figure in the Romantic movement of poetry Lived in London all his life Poem is from the collection 'Songs of Experience', which followed his collection 'Songs of Innocence' Poets sometimes use the theme of place to make a comment about society. Places can become symbolic of social weakness, representing everything considered damaged about society at that particular time. Ballad Form Blake uses the ballad form, lamenting his vision of the city as a place defined by the privileges granted to a few through royal charters Ballads were often about tragedy, catastrophe or the problems of love, but many were political in their criticism of society. Ballads were highly popular because they had a simple, repetitive structure that enabled people to remember events, share stories and express important ideas. Analysis "I wander" - the personal pronoun makes clear that this is an eye-witness, personal account; the verb ' wander' is relaxed, but also detaches the speaker from what he describes "through each chartered street, / Near where the charterd Thames does flow" 'chartered' refers to legal rights and privileges granted, originally by ancient or royal authority, but also by acts of parliament. What effect does Blakes repeated use of it as a pre-modifier to 'street' and 'Thames'? Blake's use of the term as pre-modifier to 'street' and 'Thames' emphasises the class divide of the city; the repetition also helps to highlight the prolific significance of the capital. And mark in every face I meet /marks of weakness, marks of woe." Despite being the capital city, Blake describes the people of London as having 'weakness'. What is their weakness and what is Blake suggesting? What else about these lines helps to emphasise the sense of misfortune and misery? Here, the repetition, caesura and rhyme emphasise the sense of misfortune and misery REVIEW The first stanza details the visible evidence witnessed by the speaker. The second moves forward to illustrate audible evidence of the misfortune the speaker witnesses. "In every cry of man, / In every infant's cry of fear" the repetition and rhyme emphasise the significance of what the speaker witnesses; the use of two generations and the repetition of 'every' highlight the way in which poverty was widespread. "The mind-forged manacles I hear." the word 'manacles' refers to chains used to restrict the movement of slave or prisoners. Here, they are mental chains. Blake illustrates how people were prisoners as a result of their own thoughts. However, this is also positive as Blake believed that, as with oppression, freedom began with the way people thought. "How the chimney-sweeper's cry / Every blackening church appalls, / And the hapless soldier's sigh / Runs in blood down palace walls." How does this quotation illustrate class divide? Blake highlights the voices of the people who would have had little or no control over their own circumstances. Chimney sweeps were often young children from families suffereing from poverty. what is sibilance, and how is it used? The sibilance used in the description of the soldier's voice creates a sense of distress. Blake also creates powerful images that serve to illustrate the physical decay of the city. The church and the monarchy are marked by, but protected from, the pain of the people they govern. Blake's republican sympathies (France had recently executed its King and Queen) and hostility towards conventional religion make him create vivid metaphors for what he saw as the hypocrisy and selfishness of the most powerful. "But most through midnight streets I hear" Climax of the poem; at 'midnight', Blake sees the height of London's 'evil' and 'sinister civilisation "the youthful harlot's curse" - the reference to young prostitutes is shocking and powerful in illustrating the threats to long relationships that are a consequence of poverty and a decay in social morals. Blake illustrates how weakness can be found in everyone and everywhere. He sees an unloving city of poverty, prostitution and immorality. "Blasts the new born infant's tears" - the violent verb illustrates the negativity in family relationships; once again, innocent youth is born tainted. "And blights with plagues the marriage hearse." - The alliteration in the last two lines makes a connection between life and death, connection that is presented as being tragic. The final paradoxical phrase illustrates Blake's views on the so-called sanctity of marriage; for him, this was mocked by the existence of prostitution, unwanted pregnacnies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases." Compare with... Spellbound - use of ballad form A Vision - reality of city life Price We Pay for the Sun - poverty and privilege
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