Oppression and Spiritual Deterioration in William Blake's Poem London

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Oppression and Spiritual Deterioration in William Blake's Poem London

London

I wander thro' each charter'd street, 1

Near where the charter'd Thames does flow, 2

And mark in every face I meet, 3

Marks of weakness, marks of woe. 4

In every cry of every Man, 5

In every Infant's cry of fear, 6

In every voice, in every ban, 7

The mind-forg'd manacles I hear: 8

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry 9

Every blackning Church appalls, 10

And the hapless Soldier's sigh, 11

Runs the blood down Palace walls. 12

But most thro' midnight streets I hear 13

How the youthful Harlot's curse 14

Blasts the new-born Infant's tear, 15

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse. 16
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The groups (Church, Palace, Husbands) are chastised by Blake for their contractual interest in others, but lack of responsible concern.

In lines three and four, the author begins to point out the visual evidences of society's spiritual malaise. Blake uses the word "mark" several times to show the reader the problems he sees have outward signs--"marks of weakness, marks of woe." In stanza two, Blake leaves the visible evidence for the audible evidence, and we begin to hear the groans of a fallen world. Man and infant cry--one in experience, one in innocence--yet, both in a fallen world, both raising a pained voice. From line three on, the poem is filled with mournful, weary, destructive sounds--the pounding out of the "mind-forg'd manacles"; the sad "'weep! 'weep!" of the chimney-sweeper (Blake 33); the dying soldier's sigh; the harlot's explosive, withering curse. All of these sounds contribute to the picture of society reeling in the deadly stages of metastasizing cancer.

Repetition is at its most concentrated use in stanza two where the word "every" is used five times (seven times overall in the poem). Blake certainly wants the reader to know that the signs of oppression and slavery are everywhere and on every face-- no one is exempt.

In line seven, Blake again skillfully uses a word with multiple meanings. Ban can be a curse, condemnation, marriage proclamation, or young French soldier. As a
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