London: William Blake and Jack Albury Essay

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Jack Albury Albury 1
Professor John Starkweather
English 222
23 July 2013
An Analysis of “London” Stanzas two and three These two stanzas come from a poem called “London,” which is written in the book Songs of Experience, by William Blake. The poem is written in the first person perspective of, presumably, a man, since the poem is written by a male, in the city of London. The man is wandering at night, focusing on what he hears in the “charter’d street” (Blake 1). He also makes a point to describe the Thames River as “charter’d” (2), when describing its nearby location. This repetition of the word in the first two lines suggests his contempt with the atmosphere of London; it gives the reader the sense that he feels restricted as he enters the city, as everything is mapped, and controlled in this unnatural environment. As he wanders through the night, he describes what he hears, depicting a somewhat dark and ominous image of the cities’ charter’d streets. It is apparent early on in the poem that this speaker is in the “Generation” state of the soul. This is made clear because the man is not in a naïve state of innocence. He is fully aware of the cruelties in the world, and by explaining what he hears as the cries of man, and “every infant’s cry of fear” (6), it is evident that he has been exposed to “common human experience, suffering and conflicting contraries” (as “Generation” is described in The Norton Anthology: English Literature the Major Authors textbook). It is important, however, to note that his
Albury 2 exposure to suffering isn’t evidence enough to support the claim that he is in the “Generation” state of the soul; the support for this claim is that he holds someone responsible for these cruelties (the church and government). He continues to say “How the Chimney-sweepers cry/ Every blackening Church appalls” (9, 10). In saying this, he suggests that the churches want nothing to do with the poor, and the churches' walls are blackened, metaphorically, for that reason. So he is not naïve to think, as one in the Beulah state of the soul might be, that the church is still helping these poor children. The church stands idly by, while children are exposed to dangerous living conditions, and unregulated child labor. He next expresses his contempt with the government, in saying "the hapless Soldier’s sigh/ Runs in blood down Palace walls” (11, 12). The soldiers have died, or have been seriously maimed, in wars in order to protect and build these palace walls, yet the government does nothing for these men. These two points are important to recognize, because even a child in the state of Beulah can share a common human experience of suffering, such as the child in the poem “The Chimney Sweeper,” also by William Blake. This child endured the early death of his mother, and being sold into child labor by his own father (both certainly cases of emotional suffering), yet his soul is still in the state of Beulah, because he is naïve enough to believe that the person who is essentially holding him as prisoner is “An Angel who had a bright key/ and he open’d the coffins & set them all free”…