The purpose of Blake’s poem is to outline the hardships and low standard of living within London. Blake calls the streets ‘chartered’, Chartered can be interpreted to mean responsibility of the church or state or licensed; on the other hand it can be use to mean licentious and freely immoral. Taken in context with the rest of the poem I consider it to mean freely immoral. Blake shows an obvious disgust for the city and it’s people. He sees in the people ‘marks of weakness, marks of woe’ clearly showing that the people are living poor lives in squander. On the other hand, Wordsworth’s poem is an exaggerated tribute to the beauty of London. He says the ‘city like a garment doth wear the beauty of the morning’. Wordsworth is touched by the scene and is moved to write this poem describing the deep sense of calm and awe evoked in him. He wants to infect his readers with this feeling.
Wordsworth’s poem immediately sets out how the author feels in the first line saying ‘Dull would he be of soul who could pass by, a sight so touching in its majesty.’ Inferring that the sight of London would evoke strong views in everyone who sees it as it clearly does in Wordsworth. Wordsworth’s poem is made more charged in the penultimate line where he says ‘Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;’ He is so overwhelmed by the tranquillity of London that he feels the need to invoke gods name. In contrast nowhere in the Blake poem does he use direct speech to heighten any of the emotions. Wordsworth’s poem uses words like ‘glideth’ and ‘smokeless air’ to give a sense of calm tranquillity to his words. This makes me feel peaceful and almost sleepy as the words flow along in an almost dreamlike fashion.
William Blake’s poem conveys his feelings in a more abstract style, when he uses the people of London to represent the institutions, which they are associated with. He says ‘the hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood down palace walls.’ Here he is criticising the monarchy and government for condemning young men to death by sending them off to fight in foreign wars. It is obvious from words such as ‘woe’ and ‘appals’ that Blake is disgusted with what he sees in London. The reader would undoubtedly feel great pity for the people of London at this time.
The poets use different symbolism to convey their ideas to the reader. Wordsworth shows his feelings for London in a figurative way. He personifies the sun, river and the city. He continues this simile giving the river ‘a will’. He says ‘The City now doth like a garment wear the beauty of the morning’ this gives the impression that the city is alive and therefore more exciting and wonderful instead of it being an inanimate collection of buildings. Wordsworth’s sonnet is written in regular iambic pentameter which emphasises the rhyme and thus the beauty of London. Wordsworth also uses lists, ‘Ships, towers, domes, theatres,’ so that it seems that he is so overwhelmed by the amount of beauty he cannot get his words out fast enough. He also uses hyperbole in saying, ‘Never did sun more beautifully steep.’ Wordsworth cannot know this so he uses exaggeration to heighten the tone and impact.
William Blake’s ‘London’ is written in four, four line stanzas. Each line of each verse has the same number of syllables; this creates a regimented effect that orders the poem well whilst accentuating the depressing tone of the poem. Without using over exaggerated language the poet reflects his own disgust at the scene. It uses alternate line rhyming ‘…. street’ ‘…flow’ ‘…. meet’ ‘…woe’ which makes the poem sound regular and draws the readers attention to the last word of each line creating a bigger impact. Blake also uses repetition to begin three lines with, ‘In every..’ This drums the message home for the reader, which coupled with the violent vocabulary, ‘blood,’ creates a bigger impact. Each verse of the Blake poem attacks a different aspect of London so although the tone does not change the focus of the attack does and the reader is struck with more evidence of the appalling state of London. In the last verse of the Blake poem there is the image of sexually transmitted disease, which is a symbol of their society. It describes the ‘youthful harlots curse’ blasting the newborn infant. This is showing that sexually transmitted disease affects everyone because the young are born into this promiscuous society. The last line uses the image of a ‘marriage hearse’ being blighted by ‘plagues.’ This image in my opinion is the sexually transmitted disease.
Both poems show very different feelings towards London. You would have to compare them to other texts of the time to see which is more accurate though I believe it is Blake’s poem. If I had to pick which I preferred I would choose the Blake poem. Wordsworth’s poem is indeed very beautiful and profound in its testament towards the beauty of London in the early morning. But Blake’s poem has a deeper meaning as with the imagery of the sexually transmitted disease. It also describes London from the eyes of its people whereas Wordsworth’s poem only speaks of the ‘beauty of the morning’ and no people are mentioned anywhere. So where Wordsworth is perhaps looking at the scenery with rose-tinted spectacles or hankering after a by-gone age, Blake depicts the reality of the newly industrialised London and all its woes. I believe this is the main defining difference between the poems and that this contrast makes it very difficult to rate one above the other as their strengths lie in different places.