Treasure Island

William Blake

(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827 / London)

London


I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

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:

How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.

But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

Submitted: Wednesday, May 09, 2001
Edited: Wednesday, May 09, 2001

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  • F O (3/3/2014 12:28:00 PM)

    chartered means to do with government or rule, not mapped out. it reflects Blake is an anti-nomina, i.e. he hates rules (Report) Reply

  • Walterrean Salley (8/5/2012 10:58:00 PM)

    A striking poem, quite eerie, with grave images. Almost like a time machine. Very interesting comments below. I enjoyed reading- twice. (Report) Reply

  • Mookey Wilson (4/17/2010 6:02:00 AM)

    Blake suggests that nothing is free: ‘chartered street’ the word ‘chartered’ means mapped out, this implies that the street has no free will and is chosen where it is allowed to be and where it is allowed to go. This in turn means that the street could be perceived as a metaphor for the people of London. Blake then repeats ‘chartered’ in the next line: ‘chartered Thames’. Blake uses repetition of ‘chartered’ to show that nothing can escape the iron grip that prohibits London. The use of the word ‘Thames’ is effective and strengthens this point because it means that even a mighty force of nature has been tamed, caged, and brought under control. If such a powerful force has been restrained what hope do the people of London have? (Report) Reply

  • Ag Basheer Udumbunthala (2/17/2010 1:43:00 AM)

    The poet expressing his feelings of specially organized cities with rich culture and high economical growth, a search of happy face in the street but there are marks of sorrow, marks of misery, marks of sadness….the current situation of the world. “The peace” in articles, in words, in talks, in medias…where is the real “peace” that is getting, who is executing… (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (2/26/2009 12:44:00 AM)

    A ‘chartered’ street has been approved by royal charter, which makes what follows all the more ironic.The repetition of ‘every’ stresses there are no exceptions, and the brilliant phrase ‘mind-forged manacles’ recalls Hamlet’s ‘nothing is but thinking makes it so.’
    The Church should be appalled by the chimney sweepers, who are tiny kids being deprived of heir education, and Royalty by the soldiers’ poor pay and unsatisfactory conditions of service.
    The last verse of this great poem refers to the effects of venereal disease. It is passed from the father, who has slept with the prostitute before marriage, , to the mother, and thence to their child, ruining a life that has barely begun. (Report) Reply

  • Robert Howard (12/13/2006 10:31:00 AM)

    This poem abounds with freedom unfettered by its rhyming. The variable rhythms and bold sense of purpose make this a work of compelling depth and strength. (Report) Reply

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