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William Blake's

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Introduction

Heather Glazier Dr. Anne McWhir English 440.01 09 Dec. 2004 William Blake's "London" & William Wordsworth's "London, 1802" The figure of the poet as it pertains to William Blake and William Wordsworth is different according to the perception of most analysis. Blake addresses a universal audience in a prophetic voice, taking the role of the poet upon himself often using a mystical tone. In contrast Wordsworth uses language specific to all and directs his writing to ordinary people writing as an ordinary person reacting to his own personal experiences. It is notable that these two poets who write from such different perspectives both ably and similarly portray the dark side of human existence ensuing from the drastic changes attending the transformation of an agrarian economy to an industrial one and the French Revolution in "London" and "London, 1802". Both Blake's "London" and Wordsworth's "London, 1802" paint a picture of a society that is in decline and in need of desperate need of rescue if a cherished quality of life for all is to be accessible again. Blake's "London" is a biting commentary on the state of the city as a result of the effects of the Industrial Revolution and while Wordsworth's "London, 1802" is more contemplative in form it too criticizes the current state of London and England following industrialization and the French Revolution. ...read more.

Middle

The final stanza is one filled with powerful images like that of the "youthful Harlot's curse" (14.35) that alludes to the practice of forcing young girls into prostitution and laments marriage as an institution in decline. The practice of marrying for interest alone rather than any consideration of love led men to search for fulfillment elsewhere and the economics of the time forced many young women of lower classes into prostitution. The "midnight streets" (13.35) symbolize the dark nature of the morals of society where the birth of illegitimate children and disease abound as a result of this practice. The curse of the harlot "blasts the newborn infants tear" (13.35) seems to be a mourning cry for the death and destruction of family values also lost in the forced marriages of the day. Finally the poet joins marriage to death in the image of the "marriage hearse" (14.35), an image, that Freedman says, originates in "the sexual and economic exploitation of women by the men of respectable society" (3) in a society rife with venereal disease. The images created by Blake in this stanza are the final pieces spawning a bleak image of London that is full of horror and apathy that afflict the very institutions that have created it. Blake the prophet has effectively written a universal message that transcends London and time and carries a warning that applies as much now as it did in 1794. ...read more.

Conclusion

Wordsworth wrote "London, 1802" in response to his own reactions to the changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution and the materialism that it brought with it. He disliked the corruption and pollution that accompanied it and wished for a return to a simpler, less obviously wicked time. He invokes Milton on behalf of England but it is also his own personal need he is voicing. He is warning that unless people wake up and realize the effects materialism is having they will be the losers in a society that no longer considers the needs of mankind. This disregard of each other can only lead to the demise of civilized society. These two poems written from divergent positions accurately convey the same images of a society in decline. Blake as the omniscient observer and Wordsworth as the concerned patriot/poet both paint a picture of the woes and trials of a society immersed in the effects that materialism and corruption brought on by the Industrial revolution. They contain dire warnings that mankind must change their ways are dire or the consequences will be terrible and price of whatever is gained will be too high to countenance. The fact that the messages of both these poems transcend time and strike home today as strongly as they did when they were written is the most striking aspect of these two poems in my mind. ...read more.

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