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The Poetry of London

posted 12 Sept 2010, 04:55 by Mpelembe   [ updated 12 Sept 2010, 04:57 ]
Blake and Wordsworth both wrote memorable poems about London.
These poems are both written about the poet's views of the
city of London. At the time that these poems were written
London was the heart of a global power as England grew
wealthy with one of the largest shipping industries.

Not only this, but Britain's strength was so great that it
was able to colonise many countries. We can see differences
in the environment in which they lived and worked. Blake was
of a lower class, and was a printer to earn his living; he
resided in London and this meant that he saw all of London;
both the good and the bad aspects of this magnificent city.
His life also ended in London.

Wordsworth, on the other hand, lived a much wealthier life,
able to freely travel, and he visited London as a tourist
which meant that he saw the touristic side of London; the
beautiful aspects. Also this meant that publishing his poems
were much simpler due to his wealth.

Both writers are considered Romantics due to the time period
in which they were written; at a time when Romantics were
very popular. Even though they are both Romantics they take
different approaches towards it; Blake's portrayal of London
shows great hardship and suffering, however Wordsworth likens
London to a beautiful girl.

The structure of the two poems is very different; this is
because the two poems have a different use. Blake's poem is
written in the form of quatrains which is a very simple form
of poem (like a nursery rhyme). Because the form of this poem
is very simple, it allows William Blake to convey his message
on how bad the city of London is to all the different types
of people living there, including the very poor and
uneducated. In order to reach the maximum population, this
poet has used simple language.

Wordsworth, on the other hand, chooses to make his poem more
complicated by using an irregular sonnet form which is more
complicated than Blake's poem.

This is because he wrote his poem not to describe how bad
London was, but as a love poem to London. Wordsworth does
not want this poem to be accessible to all; by making the
poem's structure more complicated, he is creating
exclusivity and this gives the impression that only the
upper classes are capable of having such love for London.

There are many significant differences between the two
poets. The language and imagery are done very differently.
An example of this contrast between Blake and Wordsworth is
the colours and atmosphere portrayed by each poet.

Blake writes, 'every blackening church appals' which is an
extremely depressing view of the city, almost as if London
was the home of Satan himself. This clearly shows the
contempt that Blake has for the condition of the church. The
words also have a double meaning; the 'blackening' of the
church could signify the increasing corruption of the
church, or it could be literal, as the smog from the
industrial revolution would, quite literally, blacken the

Wordsworth writes about 'a sight so touching in its
majesty', which shows the love he has for this great city; a
stark contrast to the way Blake feels about it. Wordsworth
sees London in a completely different way. This may be due
to him having only seen the touristic parts of London as
Wordsworth talks about 'Earth has not anything to show more
fair' which is without doubt a positive view on London. He
mentions 'a smokeless sky' which shows another contrast
which could be because he had managed to go into London
before the factories had opened and so saw the sunrise
before London awoke and blotted out the sky with its large
industrial factory chimneys. Wordsworth goes onto personify
the river 'glideth at his own ...' which could mean that
there is so much life with in the city that even the river
has become living. He gives the river a 'personality and the
city clothes.

Another contrast that there is between the two poets is the
time of which they both have chosen to talk about in the
poems. As Blake choose to set his at midnight; 'through
midnight streets' which adds to his depressing air of
London. This is false reasoning and illustrates the lack of
enthusiasm more so than if it was set during the day.

Wordsworth on the other hand has chose to set his at a much
more romantic time; the unique feel of London in the morning
is conveyed as a beautiful calmness, and gives the reader a
sense of tranquility. This air of peace and harmony follows
throughout the whole of his poem as he goes on to mention
'silent, bare, calm so deep, houses seem asleep, mighty
heart lying still'. It is used completely in his poetry to
create the particular feeling he wishes to convey.

Another thing which is a relevant contrast is Wordsworth's
lack of people in his city as he mentions only the natural
beauties as though the city was sleeping. Which is very
different to the pain and suffering of thousands which Blake
tries to make relevant by repeating significant words to
increase their importance and make it seem as though there
were many more with use of repetition. Examples of this are
'every' which is repeated five times in one paragraph.

I feel that both sides have good opinions but due to
Wordsworth being a man of little London experience. Although
his poem may be a thing of beauty his opinion on London is
much more limited than that of Blake who has lived there all
his life who has seen both the best and worst of London and
there for truly knows what lays at the heart of London. Both
poets work has relevance to today however as car pollution
now causes the large pollution as mentioned by Blake however
this means that Blake may change the line to make it more
relevant to vehicles.

Unfortunately for Wordsworth over the past two centuries
London has expanded which means from the heart of it you
cannot see any valleys or hills which would mean this line
would become irrelevant with no connection to the landscape
of London.

About the Author:

Over the years, art dealer David Tatham has seen the rise of
many now famous artists; one such man is David Shepherd, and
an extensive collection of his signed limited edition prints
and original paintings can be viewed and bought from the