London Poem by William Blake


Rating: 3.2

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.

Robert Howard 13 December 2006

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.

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Walterrean Salley 05 August 2012

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

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Mookey Wilson 17 April 2010

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?

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Andrew Hoellering 26 February 2009

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.

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Susan Williams 01 March 2016

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. 

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William Jobsworth 02 February 2022

I wandered lonely through the crowd, That through congested station mills, And thereupon I spied a cloud, Of smoke from factory chimneys' spills, And plastic bags adorning trees, Their fragments ragged in the breeze.

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dyarea 06 July 2021


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Jack Meoff 28 April 2021

POV you read my name

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poohead 09 February 2020

im looking for my dad, he went to get some milk and never came back, have you seen him? ? ? ? ? ? ?

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Dominic Windram 10 September 2019

Blake, like a biblical prophet, rages against the great social injustices of his day...wonderful deployment of anaphora within this tightly structured poem!

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