Primarily, William Blake’s poem “London” is a description of a very corrupted society where the power of materialism is prevalent, and there is a striking difference between the upper and lower-class sections of society. Blake has written this poem from a very negative outlook where people from the lower, working-class live in a dark and unjust world, who consequently become victims of the corruption of those from upper-class, who are positions of power. The problem is that they are absolutely unaware of what is happening to them. This is why Blake believes that there is no such thing as a perfect place to live. He wants people to realize that they are surrounded by misery. He paints a picture of a world where the atmosphere is very dreary, where poverty is prevalent. He represents these ideas in a single place: London. Blake’s poem is in iambic tetrameter with four quatrains, and the basic rhyme scheme is “a-b-a-b”.
Blake begins by describing how he is wandering from one street to another. He uses “chartered” as an adjective to describe the streets, referring signifying how important money is in order to live in this transient world, where everything centers on money and wealth. However, regardless of the role that money plays in this world and the happiness its value brings, many people are still sad and sorrowful. This fact is evident in the verses, “In every cry of every man, / In every Infant's cry of fear” (5-6). No one is happy; they are living in constant fear inside the dark part of this materialist society. The second quatrain reflects the materialism of words as Blake writes that, “the mind-forged manacles” (8). This represents the fact that money is dominating and engrossing the minds of these people and has psychologically restrained them, inhibiting their free thinking.
In the third quatrain, Blake presents a comparison of two completely different individuals. He compares a chimney-sweeper with a soldier. Both of them are a very typical representation of two institutions that were very important during that time, the Church and the Monarchy. In fact, they are the reason human beings are suffering in the London depicted in Blake’s poem. It is evident that Blake is referring to manipulation and power in society. In the fourth quatrain, Blake uses metaphors to describe what he hears as he walks through the streets. “The youthful harlot’s curse” is a metaphor for syphilis, a disease that was prevalent in the 18th century, especially among harlots or prostitutes, and was the main cause of death. The curse of the harlots at that time was that they would end families, which were an important part of the English society, and pass on death. “The marriage-hearse” can be considered as a metaphor for the fact that a harlot with the curse of syphilis could infect her husband with the disease and pass it on to the children she gave birth to, destroying her marriage and dealing death to them.
In closing, it can be concluded that Blake’s idea behind penning down this poem is to make people realize the importance of a free society, a society that is not chained by money and wealth, where there is no such thing as an ideological condition. The thing about this poem that speaks to the soul is the fact that Blake is conveying the message that we need to free ourselves from the restrains of our own mind that prevent us from finding freedom.
Blake, William. "London." Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (Dover Thrift Editions). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 1992. Print.