'London' - Key Quotations

"I wander through each chartered street

Near where the chartered Thames does flow"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The opening lines of the poem. The speaker is introduced through the first-person.

THEMES:

Control; Nature

LANGUAGE:

Adjective = if something is "chartered" then it is controlled and regulated. Blake suggests that not only are the streets controlled, but the Thames is too - man controlling nature.

"In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker outlines the suffering they encounter.

THEMES:

Suffering; Fear

LANGUAGE:

Repetition = the repetition of "In every" brings attention to the scale of suffering and fear.

"The mind-forged manacles I hear"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker brings attention to what is holding these people back.

THEMES:

Pessimism; Self-confidence

LANGUAGE:

A "manacle" is a chain.

Metaphor = "mind-forged manacles" tells us that these people of London are held back by their own doubts and lacking self-confidence.

"How the Chimney-sweepers cry

Every black'ning Church appalls,

And the hapless Soldiers sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls."

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker continues to describe how desperate and appalling the city is. 

THEMES:

Suffering; Wrongdoing

LANGUAGE:

Juxtaposition = the innocent children who would have been chimney-sweeps at the time juxtaposes with the idea of the corrupt church.

Metaphor = the final two lines imply that the soldiers went and fought wars to protect those who live in palaces with wealth and power.

"How the youthful Harlots curse

Blasts the new-born Infants tear"

- STANZA 4 -

CONTEXT:

The speaker continues to describe what they hear, and they make a connection between two seemingly unrelated things.

THEMES:

Corruption

LANGUAGE:

"Harlots" is slang for prostitutes or lower-class women.

The "curse" from the harlots blasts the new-born's tear, suggesting that the innocent baby is immediately corrupted upon being born into a dysfunctional, damaged society.

"And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse."

- STANZA 4 -

CONTEXT:

The final line of the poem which sums up Blake's point - that society is destroying and corrupting all the positive things in the world.

THEMES:

Corruption; Destruction; Mankind

LANGUAGE:

Oxymoron = the joy and happiness of "marriage" is juxtaposed with imagery of death and mourning with "hearse".