A Critical Appreciation of the Poem “London” by William Blake


London is a poem in which William Blake criticizes contemporary society, symbolizing oppression. The so-called liberty of which his countrymen are proud is nothing but “a chartered liberty.”

The natural and unrestrained growth of man is impossible. The poet has exemplified the evils of the then society by the chimney sweeper’s miserable life, helpless deaths of the soldiers, and the exploitation of the harlots.

Thus, the child chimney sweeper, the soldier, and the harlot are Blake’s types of the oppressed- characteristic victims of a system based not on brotherhood but fear.

Contemporary Poets Besides Blake to Condemn London’s Society

Blake is not the only poet to condemns the society of London. After him, Wordsworth speaks of the collapse of humanity in London, and so he urges Milton to come back to redeem England from the deterioration it has undergone.

Even in the present century, T.S Eliot has compared the city with a wasteland in his famous poem, “The Waste Land.” In the poem “London,” Blake attacks the hollowness of society and the helplessness of the church.

The poem presents an accurate picture of the society of London. The river Thames flows quietly by the side of London, bearing witness to all the ugly and crushing scenes of London.

Blake Reveals Men’s Sinful Deeds in London

Blake finds in the cries of children and men the replica of men’s sinful deeds. The poet hears the cries of the chimney-sweepers, which appall the helpless church. The sight of the dying soldier whose blood drops down the palace walls is audible to the poet.

At midnight, the curses of the young harlots are heard in the streets. This unnatural life spoils the holy tie between the wife and husband in their marital life. It results from a marriage devoid of a lover, and so a man seeks a harlot to satisfy his passion.

Besides, the children born out of loveless marriage and adultery pose a significant problem.

Blake Lashes Church, Society, And Men in London

The target of the attack is the church, society, and men. In the Songs of Innocence, the poet’s attitude to society is mild.

Blake states a thing or a condition but does not hold anyone responsible. However, in London, we can find a progression in feelings and thoughts.

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The boy, who was born into a dangerous society, now has to face the problems of existence. The poet notices woe and weariness in the faces of the Londoners instead of joy and pleasure.

Blake has given a picture of the society with sketches of three corrupt practices embodied in the chimney sweeper, the harlot, and the soldiers.

“Mind-Forg’d Manacles” Presents People’s Chained Condition in London

The phrase “mind-forg’d manacles” is essential to understand the poem’s theme. The people are in chains everywhere.

Every face in the city is melancholy because of his misery caused by man; all the so-called industrial progress has brought about misery for most of them.

To Conclude

In this poem, London criticizes society and the whole trend of contemporary society. It is a protest against the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

It is a short poem of four-lined stanzas but full of ideas within a short poem; Blake has put a universal problem, the solution of which lies in universal love for all.

A H M Ohidujjaman

I'm the Founder of Hamandista Academy. I live in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I studied English Literature and ELT. Now, I'm working as a Lecturer of English at a Dhaka-based Private University.

2 thoughts on “A Critical Appreciation of the Poem “London” by William Blake

  1. Hi, may I know who wrote the critical appreciation of this poem named “London” along with what date and year it was published?
    Thanks,

    1. Hello Mr. Sheikh,
      This essay was prepared by Hamandista Content Development Team, not by an individual. And it was published on December 31, 2017.
      Thanks.

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