Explain the lines I wander thro’ each charter’d street, Near where the charter’d Thames does flow from London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every Man,
In every infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear


These lines are borrowed from the mystical pre-romantic poet, William Blake’s famous poem “London” which deals with the social evils of 18th century English life. While speaking about his tragic experiences in the city of London, Blake, the humanitarian poet makes the above comment.

The poet, William Blake, was roaming through the free and liberated street of London. Near it, the Thames river was also flowing in an uninterrupted style. It seems that eternal freedom reigned there. But suddenly the poet’s mind is full of sympathy for the poor man whom he met in that street. In fact, the sight of misery and sufferings made the poet very much wounded. He could not follow the syllogism. But, meditation helped the poet to realize the inner meaning. He was then able to explain why there was the mark of weakness or woe in the faces of common people. The cry of every voice clearly reminded him of the situation under which the poor men were forced to live. He thought that those poor men had mind but it was always controlled by the order of the rich people. Naturally, the common people had nothing to do with the Charter of London.

These lines clearly depict a picture of the dismal suffering which was inflicted upon the common and ordinary people of London. Through this, Blake has given a vivid scenario of the metropolitan life of London. Of course, a note of sadness and pessimism pervades the poem, for which Blake is close to us.

Also read: Summary and critical appreciation of the poem “London” by William Blake