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London, Wordsworth’s Composed Upon Westminster Bridge and
Johnson’s Inglan Is A Bitch.
In “London”, Blake creates the image that London is a very grim
place. He describes it, as having mapped out streets, even the river
Thames is not flowing along its natural route, the whole place is
unnatural, and false. All Blake can see is misery everywhere. This
is made very clear by the repetition of the word “every”:
“In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.”
He uses repetition to get the message across that he sees real misery
everywhere he looks, and in everything he hears. It gets the message
into your mind. Also, “in every ban” is a public declaration, saying
that everything about the place is made so that people are miserable.
Blake goes on to say how London is a very dirty place; “black’ning
church appals” creates the image of dirt being everywhere, even on
churches, which are normally seen as places that are not left to get
Clearly, Blake does not like London, and uses imagery to show this.
With use of repetition, vivid images of the dirty, and miserable place
he sees are created.
Wordsworth however, has a very different approach to London. He sees
it as the finest place on Earth, and that never before has he seen a
place that really is so beautiful as London. He says that if you don’t
see London as being like this, then you have no soul, no feelings.
There is a very positive approach to the poem. “The beauty of the
morning” and “majesty” used to build a picture of what he sees. “Like
a garment” is a simile used to make it sound alive.
Here you see a complete contrast to the way Blake sees London.
Blake's misery and dullness, now seen as happiness and beauty.
Wordsworth describes the Thames as being very natural, as flowing at
its own will. Blake describes it as chartered, and unnatural. A
complete contrast. In Wordsworth’s poem, there is no dirt, just clean
“smokeless” air. The buildings are alive in Wordsworth’s poem, but
not in Blake's. It is as if the two poets, are writing about a
completely different place, even though they are writing about the
same place at around the same time, the 19th century.
However, and important factor we can take into account, is the time of
day that the poems are describing. Wordsworth’s poem is written early
in the morning, just as the sun is rising.
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would have a very different view of London to Blake, who is writing
having been in London for some time. Early in the morning, London
would almost be asleep still, and so no noise, or smoke, with the
sunlight giving a very different view. This maybe begins to explain
why these poems, of the same time, show contrasting views about
Johnson’s poem, “Inglan is a Bitch”, takes a very different approach
to London. It is written from his own experiences of life in London.
Like Blake, he greatly dislikes London. He says that the people
wanted to hide him, because he was black, and so they made him work on
the underground. He felt that he was treated badly, and unfairly no
matter what he did, or how hard he tried. He was given all the jobs
that other people didn’t want, for example, dishwasher in a hotel. He
says how there was never any time for clock watching, as he was always
made too do work. He dislikes it how people take money that he has
rightly earned away by tax. There are many more examples of what he
is made to do, for very little money.
To make the audience realise what has happened to him, he uses
refrains. Each time, the last line changes, from saying that you
can’t escape the fact that England is a bitch, to how he can’t sleep
because he worries about how he is going to cope with so little money,
to how he feels that people should just face up to the fact that it is
like this, admit it and change it. Because he uses these refrains,
what he trying to say gets into your mind, and you are made to think
The poem ends with a rhetorical question,
“is whey wi a goh dhu ‘bout it?”
This end makes people think, that yes the way he was treated is wrong,
and that something should be done about it. This is exactly what
Johnson wanted people to do when he wrote it, as it is his way of
‘having a go’ at England.
This poem is different from both Blake's and Wordsworth’s poems in
many ways. A major way, being that it is written in Johnson’s
dialect. It is written exactly how he thought of it. It also shows
that he is from Jamaica, and makes the reader think that maybe a lot
of what went on was racial abuse, and people just didn’t accept him.
He was made a minority. It also makes the simple task of reading the
poem hard work. He does this as it is a way getting his own back.
His life was made hard, and so he will make something simple on our
lives difficult to. You are able to understand how bitter he felt
about how he was treated.
It is also based on what is almost a completely different London.
Both Blake and Wordsworth wrote in the 19th Century, however, Johnson
wrote his poem in the 20th Century. No longer are there the fields
that Wordsworth saw in his day, instead there are busy streets,
hotels, and the underground. London would be completely
unrecognisable to Blake or Wordsworth.
It is clear therefore, that the three poems here are all very
different. They do all show the views of the poets writing them, but
they all have a very different effect. Blake's poem is very critical
of London, by saying that it is a dark, dirty and miserable place to
be. Even the river is unnatural.
Wordsworth’s poem is very positive about London. He says that he has
never seen somewhere that is as beautiful. There is not a hint of
criticism in the poem.
Johnson’s poem is very negative, like Blake’s, but in a different
way. He feels that London has treated him unfairly, that is why he
does not like it. It is not what it looks like that bothers him.
Blake, and Wordsworth wrote in the 19th Century, looking at London
from the outside. They write about the image that it left them with.
Johnson, writing in the 20th Century, tells us about his personal
experiences in London, and the effect that that had on him. This
means that there is a very different approach to Johnson’s poem.
The poem that I find most effective is Johnson’s poem, as it is light
hearted, with some humour, whilst still making you think about what he
is saying, and understanding why he wrote the poem.