William Blake was born in 1757 into a middle class family. His father was working as a hosier but his mother was keen and the one in charge to educate his son well. Religion had a strong influence on Blake. He started reading the bible from an early age and this gave him inspiration in his later life; he apparently had visions of angels when he was young. He had a talent in drawing and had an endless appetite for reading, especially poetry. During his early career he became a professional engraver and rebelled against contemporary painters e. g. Josh Reynolds, Rubens etc.
Later on he married an illiterate French woman called Catherine Butcher in 1792 and was later taught how to read and write and to engrave. Blake used to combine both his art and literacy skills when writing poems which helped other people understand the poem or to create a picture in your mind. In 1827 he died and was buried in Bunhill fields in London. Blake is still remembered as “the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”. William Wordsworth was born in 1770 in Cumberland in the Lake District with both of his parents dying when he was very young.
He was then brought up by his uncles and during this time he felt very isolated and worried. However in 1787 he went to St John’s College in Cambridge and in 1790 went to France to support the Republican Movement. Here Wordsworth met and fell in love with Annette Vallon, a French woman, and had a child with her called Caroline in 1792. Unfortunately, Wordsworth had no choice but to return to England because he had little money to support his wife and child and Britain’s apprehension with France was increasing.
When the United Kingdom and France finally went to war with each other it prevented him seeing Caroline and Annette for a couple of years and he was very emotionally depressed. In 1799, Wordsworth moved back to the Lake District with his close friend Robert Sauthey. Four years later he visited his family in France but then he got married to an English woman, Mary Hutchinson. Wordsworth stopped supporting France and the French Revolution because of Napoleon’s growing power as emperor; as a result he became a Tory. In 1850 he died and was buried in Grasmere.
Wordsworth is still remembered by his influential poetry and literature. Through Blake’s and Wordswoth’s poems their ideas and feelings are put across in many ways however I will mention their ideas first. Both poets believed that poems should be written in simple language and that everything described in them are everyday and familiar. The use of this simple language and familiar subject matter was important because poetry should above all communicate clearly to ordinary people e. g. the working class so they would understand however this was heavily criticized because it was breaking the classical poetry rule.
Usually during that period long and verbose poems were written and the Working class wouldn’t be able to understand. This was a way of showing off and of course to make to poet seem more intelligent. Blake and Wordsworth were middle class and were highly educated so they saw the exploitation and inequality and they highly disliked the idea of taking advantage of the poor. This is why they both agreed with the French Revolution in some point in their lives. They wanted to educate or teach the working class that issues were similar in Britain and in France; mostly concerning evils of exploitation.
Blake also believed that marriage only brought wealth and status to middle class families and that the love wasn’t real but was abused. In the 18th Century women were treated like toys, they got forced to get married to a person that their father says, even if she doesn’t want to. In addition many husbands were unfaithful to their wives with prostitutes, which brought nothing but misery. Furthermore, Blake disliked the authority greatly including the church. He thought they brainwashed people’s minds (e. g. by the ideas fed to them by the government and the church) as well as exploiting the poor in society.
He believed that religion and the church imposed false notions of God and this prevented human beings from understanding or realising their own divine nature. Wordsworth was a Pantheist; he believed that God was in everything. He felt pleasure in watching ‘Gods creations’. This way Wordsworth felt that he was communicating with him, it was a religious and a spiritual experience. He thought that the sun, river and city were on the same level as him because they are all parts of ‘Gods creations’. He had the ability to see the beauty of creation and this is why he was deeply influenced by his love of nature.
In addition this is why he moved back to the Lake District to be surrounded by nature. ‘London’ is about the horrors of London, when you walk through it you come across suffering, poverty, disease noise, fear etc. By contrast ‘Westminster Bridge’ is a poem that expresses the views of a poet when looking at a view of London from Westminster Bridge on September 3rd, 1802 at dawn in the late summer. Now, I’m going on to explain how these poets convey their ideas about London in their poems. The first way they do this is through the subject matter.
They both talk about the importance and commercial side of London. During that period of time Britain was known as the ‘Workshop of the World’, the technology and trade was increasing which was very important for Britain’s economy; Wordsworth expresses this importance with a powerful line “And all that mighty heart is lying still! ” However when Blake “wonders through each chartered street”, London’s wealth is increasing through the exploitation of the working class, which is wrong. The stark difference between the poems is that both talk about London from the opposites points of view.
Blake could only see the evils of London, with words like “hapless, plagues, woe”. However Wordsworth sees London as a glorious and honourable city with memorable, simple words like “beauty, bright, glittering, and smokeless” etc. Secondly, the mood and the tone are completely different from each other due to the subject matter. In Blake’s point of view, London advocated a dark and prophetic place. It suggests “marks of woe” from the working class people “and the hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood down palace walls” which tells us that conditions for soldiers were extremely appalling.
They were in fact often ready to rebel against their harsh lives (like the peasants did against King Lewis VI during the French Revolution). The soldiers wrote often slogans like ‘No King’ on palace walls. He is saying that a similar movement might take place in Britain like the French Revolution did in France. It’s also an apocalyptic and a politically outspoken poem especially when he symbolises people’s lack of freedom as “mind-forged manacles” because the authorities and the church have fed ideas to the working class. This aspect makes the poem depressing and somehow it makes you feel guilty.
By contrast Wordsworth’s poem is very calm, peaceful and tranquil. ‘Westminster Bridge’ conveys a sense of admiration for “the beauty” and the “smokeless air”. It’s similar to a religious and spiritual experience with words like “calm so still” or “silent bare” which gives the feeling of freshness and purity. Normally Wordsworth was famous to be an admirer of nature but as well as that can admire cities and civilisations. Thirdly, both poems use a rhyming scheme, which gives the poem shape, makes it memorable and of course it has a music effect.
They have a tightly controlled which gives it the structure it has. “London” has a basic rhyming scheme of a b a b c d c d etc. in this case Blake is emphasizing the suffering of people in London through rhyming, “how the chimney-sweeper’s cry” and “the hapless soldier’s sigh”. In ‘Westminster Bridge’ through rhyme he emphasises “his splendour, valley, rock or hill; / Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! / the river glideth at his own will”, his love of nature shows here. However there are differences in the structure too. ‘London’ is a lyric ballad that tells a sad story in song form.
It has 4 quatrains and stanza covers a new theme or topic. But in ‘Westminster Bridge’ the poem is in a sonnet form (has an octave and sestet) where the first stanza talks about the beauty of the city in sunrise and the second stanza he describes how he “never felt, a calm so deep! ” and his sense of awe of sights of such beauty. Furthermore, the language used help convey their ideas because in both poems they use simple and powerful words. In ‘Westminster Bridge’, it allows words like “majesty, splendour, beautifully” stand out which gives the whole poem a satisfied feeling.
Similarly in Blake’s poem the negative and more depressing words like “blackening, blasts, blights” become noticeable nevertheless it gives a pessimistic and downbeat outlook on the poem. As mentioned before, simple and familiar words and straight forward sentences make the non educated people (e. g. working class) understand the point which the poets were making (e. g. exploitation). However in ‘London’, Blake adds alliteration for emphasis and reinforcement of key words such as “blasts, blights, plagues”, forcing you to dwell on them also it’s adding to the evils of London.
Another poetic device that is used in the poem is an Iambic tetrameter. This helps give the whole piece rhythm; like a song it make you remember what was said. The Iambic tetrameter is in every stanza except for the 3rd and 4th stanza where the regularity of the rhythm is lost. The limit of this rhythm scheme suggests the limits set upon the people of London. In ‘Westminster Bridge’, the mostly used poetical device is personification; the city “wears a garment” and the river can “glideth at his own sweet will”.
The personification brings London’s features (in this case the river and London as a whole) to life and more human like. This is very effective because ordinary people can understand this because they can relate to what’s been said. In this poem an Iambic pentameter is used, this helps underlying rhythm of the piece but is also used but it also makes it close to natural speech. As a result it makes people remember better how wonderful London really is “Earth has/ not an/ything/ to show/ more fair. ” Finally, the last way they convey their ideas into their poems is through imagery.
There is a similar technique used to create the desired picture in people minds and this is through constant repetition. In Wordsworth’s poem the repetition of “Never” emphasises his depth of feeling and this is also known as the power of three. He has never seen anything more beautiful than London than in the morning and he wants to share his compassion with the rest of the nation. Whereas In ‘London’ “every cry of man, in every infants cry of fear, in every voice, in every ban” there is repletion emphasizing the suffering of everyone, everywhere; this aspect adds to the apocalyptic effect.
Wordsworth also includes enjambments, which allows words to flow into the next line so it creates a more natural speech and it separates different themes from each other. As well as this a list in a poem lets the poet pack in the information about what he is seeing, “ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples”, in fewer words as possible. The list also reminds people what man made features are remarkable in London because they might take it for granted and so they should admire what they see around them more.
Blake mainly just uses short but powerful words to portray an important point; the last stanza of the poem proves this. Unwanted children from prostitutes, with the unknown father, would be born into horrible conditions from the word go. In addition some prostitutes had sexual transmitted diseases (STD’s) and so the babies might have deformities e. g. blindness. It makes the “newborn infant’s tear” that much worse because it would not be crying for a little bit of food but in fact the appalling life he or she is going to lead.
It curses family life by spreading disease and curses the life of the children who are born as a result of the “youthful harlots”. The disgrace was that the father of the child would continue his normal relation with his wife and inevitably the disease would spread to her as well resulting in death. Blake didn’t agree with the attitude of married men and marriage altogether. This is because instead of a union of two people that are in love it’s the desire of making families wealthier. It was revolved around money which is morally wrong.
In conclusion, there are many techniques and poetical devices that both Blake and Wordsworth use to convey their ideas in their poems. The language used in the poems is simple and powerful, so they stand out and make the important points memorable. Another way of emphasizing the ideas was to use rhyme, repetition, alliteration and personification. These techniques were used in the first place to communicate to the working class so that they would understand in the society they were living in. he contrast of the mood and tone between the poems gives the people the choice to believe whether London was a glorious or depressing and corrupt city to live in.
These techniques that are able to express one’s thoughts and feelings are still used in now-a-days however even if the topic was about politics or social issues it would be different to that of 200 years ago. In my opinion both Blake and Wordsworth were very successful in conveying their ideas because using repetition, personification and simple language I could tell what poet admired and disliked London’s society and civilisation.