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W. Blake, London - analisi

W. Blake, London from Song of Experience
I wander thro' each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And 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-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear,

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

This is one of the most famous poems by Blake and it’s a poem against the progress which was incredibly important in the England of those days. The word “chartered” comes from charter, which is a document that the government releases as a legal permission to start an economic activity, but here it’s seen under a negative point of view: London is in Blake’s days full in every single streets of these activities, and plus these activities bring to a sort of men’s exploitation, now the only interest of men is gain, also cheating the others. These negative aspect is common for everyone (underlined by the expression “every face” at line 3) and bring no happiness, only sufferance. The line 8 shows how the poet, in this situation of spread sufferance, can hear the manacles forged by mind that every man has. It has to do with the exploitation, lack of freedom, but it’s something we create by ourselves, it’s not something external. The progress stole the imagination from our minds, there’s a sort of subjugation under lots of points of view.

At line 9, “Chimney - sweeper” (which is also the title for two of Blake’s poems) is a clear reference to the children that in those days were often forced to work or sold as chimney-sweepers; symbol of child labor exploitation. At line 10 Blake saying church refers to the Church, not the building. The Church is black because of its corruption and sins and because black is the color of death, but the black is also the color of soot: the Church is responsible of this exploitation and so it become even more black. Its responsibility isn’t direct, they’re guilty because they didn’t do anything to stop it. At line 11 there’s another critic, but this time against authorities, who are responsible for the death and the blood of the soldiers and so the blood is on their palaces. In the last stanza we can see another critic to society. Because of the industrial revolution a lot of countrymen came from the countryside to the city in order to improve their life; it was easier for men, because they’re stronger and are more fit for factory working and had also a bit of education, while it was very difficult for women who were illiterate and more weak. So they had to find another way to gain money and a lot of them started selling their body and became prostitute. For this reason the “youthful Harlot” curse the society, that forces her to do it and doing this it makes other victims: in those day there wasn’t any contraception and among these girl there were a lot of diseases such as syphilis (that was mortal in those days and causes before blindness and then death) and so it was very easy to expand for it. The children that were born from these women were for this reason often sentenced to death because of these diseases. The expression in the last line “Marriage hearse” is very interesting, because it sounds like an oxymoron (in fact hearse means a sort of “carro funebre”), but it wasn’t, because first Blake was against the marriage because it causes a lack of freedom and then because in those days there were very big families and lots of children died.

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