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Both poets lived through both the eighteenth and nineteenth century. I
believe these poems were written just around the turn of the century.
During this time the Industrial Revolution was underway and Britainwas
becoming a very advanced country. It was a time of big change for
everyone and I think the poets both explain that in their poems. Not
only was it the Revolution, it was about the same time as the Romantic
Movement, when poets would write about beauty, love and purity. The
whole population attended church every Sunday. They all believed God
was ubiquitous (these people were called Pantheists). It was an
extremely religious age and anyone who did not respect God would be
treated with disrespect. Both poets had to remember this when they
wrote their poems.
Both poems are about the same place (London) but both poets have
different views. In my opinion they are both harshly critical of the
city and its population. William Wordsworth "Composed upon WestminsterBridge"
is written in a fourteen line sonnet, the first eight describing the
man made elements of Londonand the last six talking about the natural
beauty. He has written it in prose using iambic pentameter to help
emphasise the meaning of the rhyming words, each line has the same
number of syllables. The poem itself is descriptive, with a strong
rhyming scheme. It contains anachronism, in the third to last line he
uses archaic English to describe the river. This shows he has a wider
ranger of vocabulary than other poet at that time. He uses assonance
throughout the poem along with adjectives and punctuation on every
Wordsworth is very optimistic with his feeling towards London. His
philosophy is to appreciate the Londonview and the beauty of nature
everywhere. I get the impression he believes God gave us our senses
and the ability to remember the beauty in everything around us. He
personifies everything, the sun, river, and even the city itself. He
gives them functions that are unique to humans. He says:
"The City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning:"
This makes the reader think that the city is not just an inanimate
collection of buildings but actually alive, bustling with life. I
interpret this personification to mean that the city is disguising
itself in the beauty of the morning sun, not revealing this true
Knowing the way Londonwas back then, during the Industrial Revolution,
it is clear to say that Wordsworth is exaggerating its beauty. He uses
effective imagery and praises all achievements in the world, both by
man and in nature.
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"Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:"
He immediately shows how he feels, presuming that the sight of Londonwould
excite strong views in those who are lucky enough to see it. It is not
quite clear on whether he is criticizing or complementing London.
Taking into account the Wordsworth's most famous pieces are about the
beauty of his lake district, it is not hard to imagine that this line
is a criticism. When he then describes London as 'glittering in the
smokeless air', it is clear that he is being sarcastic as the
Industrial Revolution was underway, therefore the chimneys in London
would have been blowing out thick black smoke. He also describes
London as being 'calm', which is not possible as it is the capital of
England, therefore it would have been full of life, even in 'The
beauty of the morning'.
In Contrast to all this, William Blake's poem expresses his feelings
in a more abstract style. His poem, 'London' is written in four verses
consisting of four lines each. The title is Colloquial and each verse
is an enjambment. There is a mixture of seven and eight syllables per
line. Assonance is used in every line making it more interesting. He
uses alternate line rhyming to make it sound regular which helps
accentuate the last word of each line. Each verse of Blake's poem
attacks a different aspect of London, making it clear that he found
Londona very immoral and corrupt city. Blake is very pessimistic about
everything in London, he does not seem to have a good word to say
about it. He uses hyperbole to criticise it and the sadness of the
people who live there.
Many of the words in his poem have more than one meaning. For example
in the first line he talks about London's 'charter'd' roads and the
'charter'd' Thames. Chartered can mean either the responsibility of
the church or state, it can also be used to mean dissolute and freely
immoral. Taken in context with the rest of the poem I believe it means
freely immoral as as he goes on he alludes to prostitution and other
corrupt activities. He uses people and buildings to represent the
establishment that they are associated with. He says:
"And the happiest soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace walls."
This gives the image of a soldier's sigh running in blood down palace
walls. He is attacking the monarchy and the government for sending
young men overseas to fight and inevitably die in foreign wars.
Compared to Wordsworth, Blake has very corrupt view of Londonfocusing
on all the bad points of everything to do with it.
In the concluding stanza he uses the theme of sexually transmitted
diseases, which he believes will lead to the end of society. This is
most obvious theme in the closing verse because he describes:
"How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the newborn infant's tear."
This shows that the sexually transmitted disease affected everyone
because of the promiscuity of the people in the city. He believes that
if prostitutes and other people keep sleeping around then disease will
spread and more people will die. The last line uses the image of
marriage as the reason for this. Marriage is supposed to be a happy
occasion, an appropriate time for sexual intercourse. I think that
Blake believed marriage was an institution that would carry you to
your death bed through infidelity, as this was hinted to lead to the
end of civilisation.
Overall Wordsworth's poem is less melodramatic in its outlook as it
just describes Londonat one moment in time, it does not talk about the
inhabitants of the city or the future for everyone in it. Wordsworth
invokes Gods name in the penultimate line:
"Dear God! the very houses seem asleep"
This in my opinion is because he is so overwhelmed by the tranquillity
of London. In contrast nowhere does Blake use direct speech to amplify
any of the emotions. Both poems show feelings of both disgust and
concern for the city, each poet having their own personnel views.
If I had to pick one of these poems it would be William Blake's 'London'
as he talks about the reality of things unlike Wordsworth who is just
optimistic about everything. Blake is more clear cut with the meanings
of the words he uses. His poem is provoking and also more emotionally
charged and melodramatic. It seems almost true as most of the issues
he discusses are still relevant in Londontoday.