Critical Appreciation of William Blake’s “London”

London has occupied an essential place in the entire corpus of Blake’s poetry. In this poem, Blake has severely criticised the evils of English society. Firstly, he has shown the apathetic or callous attitude of society towards the chimney sweepers who have led a miserable life. Secondly, he has demonstrated the adversities of war as expressed in the plight of the soldiers. Thirdly and lastly, he has exhibited sexual perversion or distortion, which poses a severe threat to the holy institution of marriage and the blissful life of the offsprings. Blake has strongly denounced the malpractices and corruptions of Engish life and society in these respects. Blake’s satiric attack on London life bears a striking resemblance to T. S. Eliot’s virulent satire on the deterioration of social, economic and cultural life of London in the poems, “Preludes’, “The Hollow Men’ and The Wasteland’.

London, by Blake, is a poem of protest. Here the poet has strongly revolted against the corruptions, malpractices of English society. The poem has faithfully portrayed the apathy, weariness, pessimism, corruption of London society. He is of the view that London society is not only ethically corrupted; it is also sexually debased and contaminated. The poem. is a biting satire on the prevailing ills of London society. The very foundation of London society is very weak and fragile. It is because the values and ethics on which this society is reliable are rotten and degraded. The poet is severely critical of the comprehensive degeneration that has set in upon English society.

The poem is superb because of the skilful and efficient use of images and symbols on the part of the poet. The images of chartered street, chartered Thames, cry of every man, infant’s cry of fear, the chimney-sweeper’s cry, the hapless soldier’s sigh, the youthful harlot’s curse and the new-born infant’s tear are not only appropriate but also organic and integral to the entire theme and scheme of the poem. These images are very much instrumental in bringing out the subject matter of the poem London.