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William Blake - 'London'


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I wandered through each chartered street, / Near where the chartered Thames does flow
Blake's poignant repetition of the adjective "chartered" creates a bleak sense of how completely the city - and nature itself - has been sold off and commodified by the rich and powerful
And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
The last two repetitions of "mark" act as adjectives to make us realise that the abuses of the rich and powerful (who "chartered" the city and nature in the first couplet) have also deeply damaged the poor people of London
mind-forg'd manacles
Blake makes clear his interest and agreement with the Swiss philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau's 'The Social Contract' famously stated "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains". In this metaphor Blake forces us to realise that our "mancles" are made by how we think ("mind-forg'd") and by those that force those ideas on us.
How the Chimney-sweepers cry / Every black'ning Church appalls
Blake uses anecdote to give readers an example of one of London's abused poor: a young boy forced to clean chimneys
Every black'ning Church appalls
If we read Blake's "black'ning" as an adjective, then the poet creates the idea that the cruelty experienced by London's poor has also corrupted the "Church": traditionally a symbol of purity and charity; if, however, the poet intends "black'ning" to be a continuous verb, then the church itself is the active corrupting influence,echoing Blake's belief that organised religion was open to abuses of power
But most through midnight streets I hear / How the youthful harlot's curse / Blasts the newborn infant's tear
Straight away, Blake's "most" creates the sense of large numbers of young, "youthful" women forced into prositution (as "harlots"). By concluding in this way, with the birth of a new generation of suffers, Blake demands that we intervene and break both the cycle of poverty and our own "mind-forg'd manacles"
the youthful harlot's curse
The emotive noun "curse" here could demand we imagine these poor abused women screaming insults at a newborn baby (a deeply upsetting image) or imagine the "curse" suffered by prostitution: venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies creating more poor people to be "chartered" by the powerful and the selfish.
Level 4