William Blake

(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827 / London)

London - Poem by William Blake

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.

Form: Anaphora

Comments about London by William Blake

  • (5/28/2017 12:53:00 PM)

    I hated this poem! ! It made me feel so uncomfortable. I was livid the whole time reading it. Writing about child labour, harlots, chimney sweepers… I didn't understand! Poetry is supposed to be pleasant! (Report) Reply

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  • (3/15/2017 4:33:00 PM)

    for more London poems:
    https: //existentiallondoner.wordpress.com/
    (Report) Reply

  • (6/30/2016 8:13:00 AM)

    This poem really create a lot! (Report) Reply

  • (3/1/2016 9:04:00 PM)

    ..............beautiful poem...I would love to visit London someday ★ (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (3/1/2016 3:41:00 PM)

    One more thing- I promise- I know this is the third comment I've posted on this fantastic piece of literature but frankly there are at least twenty more comments I'd like to make.  This poem has captivated me- I want to explore its streets and channels.  But I will restrict myself to this.  I just had to mention that this is a very noisy poem.  He is walking the charted streets and he does give us unforgettable visuals but that's not all.  He lets us know there are cries everywhere.
    In every cry of every man,
    In every Infant's cry of fear
    , In every voice, in every ban,
    The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.
    ... How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
    ......... And the hapless Soldier's sigh
    Runs in blood down Palace walls
    .................But most thro' midnight streets I hearHow the youthful Harlot's curse
    Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The sounds in this poem assault your eardrums.  Assault your soul.Cries, cries, and more cries—sound is everywhere in this poem. Something is rotten here in Denmark that there are so many cries of pain.  Because of the pain of mind-forged manacles.... I'd love to go after that phrase. But I promised this was the last comment I would make. 
    (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (3/1/2016 3:06:00 PM)

    Hopefully it is all right to post more than one comment because I got side-tracked on my first comment.  My eye got caught on the word charter'd basically because Blake used it twice.  Repetition is a  poetic standard but not like this.  Blake is too good a poet to repeat a word just because he's too lazy to find a synonym.  That means something is up with this word.  Charter’d”—means that the land or building is owned by and bound to someone.  There's nothing new about that.  Why is Blake fixated on it?  The government of England chartered it- divided it up- lay claim to the right to do so.  The area is blighted by poverty, hopelessness, filth, disease, lawlessness, child labor prostitution. But the government does not claim the human suffering.  Instead, it turns its back on it and lets it fester. Blake sees that people are trapped here in these chartered streets, imprisoned there by an uncaring government so he makes sure the reader sees and ponders the word chartered. He is protesting apparently in a climate that punishes protesting. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams (3/1/2016 2:48:00 PM)

    There are a thousand and one things I want to explore in this poem.  It is so rich with symbols,  A person could go nuts on the ending alone. Actually, the poem might be closing but the cycle of misery in London is going to continue going around and around because a new life is born into this soul-destroying poverty and is greeted by the prostitute cursing him. The Marriage hearse?  Marriage and love and virginity and joy are dead in this London and the hearse is taking them to the graveyard of dreams. Well, shoot, I got side-tracked.  I wanted to talk about that fascinating word charter'd   (Report) Reply

  • (3/1/2016 9:54:00 AM)

    Very touchy poem. Behind the glorious faces of big cities and civilizations lies the pain and suffering of countless faces so obscure and unrecognized. (Report) Reply

  • (3/1/2016 8:54:00 AM)

    The human situations in a busy street it is wisely created in the poem by the great poet. (Report) Reply

  • Barry Middleton (3/1/2016 6:25:00 AM)

    Capturing the filth, disease and despair of an overcrowded city. Very haunting. (Report) Reply

    Kim Barney Kim Barney (3/1/2016 7:48:00 AM)

    Very well said, Barry. Some of the other comments below are also very interesting.

  • Edward Kofi Louis (3/1/2016 1:00:00 AM)

    Where the chartered Thames does flow. With the muse of London. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • (4/3/2014 3:26:00 AM)

    London hasn't changed much then. (Report) Reply

  • (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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (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

  • (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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Read poems about / on: marriage, soldier, fear, london, running

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Poem Edited: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

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