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Societys Decline in Blake and Wordsworth - Essay Example

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This essay analyzes that London during the late 1700s was a bustling city of confusion and commercial enterprise, reacting to the upheavals of the French Revolution and the rising merchant middle class (Engels, 1892). It is difficult to look back from the modern perspective…
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Societys Decline in Blake and Wordsworth
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Download file to see previous pages Positive signs of a prosperous and growing England, with an exciting increase in worldly importance, others viewed the bustling city in a much more negative light, in which individuals became lost members of a crowd and social ills became much more apparent (Kreis, 2006). These aspects of the city can be traced through the poetry of William Blake in poems such as “London” from Songs of Experience and William Wordsworth as it is reflected in book seven of his Prelude.
In “London” for example, Blake describes the way in which the human spirit had been shackled in 1794, the year when the poem had been written. Through careful imagery, Blake expresses an abiding belief in the unchristian nature of the restrictions on freedoms being experienced by the British people. The French Revolution had just occurred and sentiment in Britain had reached an all-time low as expressed in lines such as “How the chimney-sweepers cry” (9) and “… the hapless Soldiers sigh / Runs in blood down Palace walls” (11-12). These lines reflect the way in which even time-honored occupations such as chimney sweeps and soldiers had fallen into disrespect and despair (Olsen, 1999). Although he is describing physical situations in lines 3-4: “A mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe”, he makes it clear that he is also discussing the state of the souls of people he meets. The signs of decay and desperation are seen in every face encountered as the speaker walks down what is presumed to be an average London street. This is reinforced in the second stanza as the speaker says, “In every cry of every man, / In every infant’s cry of fear, / In every voice, in every ban, / The mind-forged manacles I hear” (4-8). In this, it is apparent that someone is controlling these people, although it remains unclear if the ‘mind-forged manacles’ are of their own creation or someone else’s (Ashton, 1986).
Wordsworth, on the other hand, had only one impression of London.  Viewed from the outside looking in, all he saw was a bustling city full of nothingness and purposelessness.  It is only through a detached viewpoint that today’s reader is able to see the city in his work and it is only through this view that Wordsworth seems willing to identify.  What Blake recognizes is a political and social upheaval and depression, Wordsworth views as a permanent condition.  He cannot feel a part of this desolation or mindless shuffling and can only find a sense of equilibrium when he tries to view it from the perspective of Nature.  Creativity and thought do not have a place in this world, according to both poets, but while Blake sees it as intentionally being burned out of the minds of the people, Wordsworth sees it as never having existed in the first place, or simply drowned out by the general press whenever it tries to surface.
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