There are many similarities and differences between the two poems by two different poets who wrote around the same period in time. William Blake believes that London is the symbol for the oppression of mankind and that London is the living proof that humans can limit and restrict themselves and their lifestyle. Wordsworth however sees London as the height of beauty and tranquillity. One of the differences between the two poets is their distinct opinions of the themes, freedom and control. Wordsworth uses the image of beauty to describe freedom, “the river glideth at his own sweet will.
This iconic picture Wordsworth has picked out shows that Wordsworth believes that nature is a metaphor of beauty, in all forms. The line personifies the river, giving it free will and reinforces the idea of a loving combination of nature and mankind, as used in Tintern Abbey, when he describes his repose under the mothering Sycamore Tree, serving as his guardian. Blake, however, describes the water in the line “near where the chartered Thames does flow. ” This shows the river as controlled and deprives the free water of tranquillity and replaces it with “chartered” meaning mapped or controlled.
This line is particularly powerful because rivers often have the connotations of freedom and life associated with them and taking this away gives a strong sense of being trapped. The river is far from the calming sensitive image most people think of, it is far from “life’s river” described in “Night 42. ” Life has the distinct connotations of wellbeing and healthiness and this is taken from the portrait with Blake’s language – “chartered” The suppressed feeling of Blake’s poem is reiterated again with the repetitive and exhaustive feel to the rhyme scheme, engulfing the reader with consistency and boredom.
The rhyme scheme is made to feel inescapable, giving the idea of being trapped. Blake often uses this as a powerful theme to his poem as in “the human abstract” where he uses the image of being trapped, “then Cruelty knits a snare, and spreads his baits with care. ” This is opposed to Wordsworth who creates a free feel to his piece. No rhyme scheme is used and a loose feel to the poem is adopted with, “This City now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning; silent bare. ”
The lack of rhyme scheme and the imagery used, “like a garment,” tell us about the looseness of London, according to Wordsworth. silent bare” can also give us the idea of simplicity which is, in my opinion, exactly the point Wordsworth wants to get across. A metaphysical element is present in both poems but shown in different ways. For example “Composed on Westminster Bridge” shows an example of the metaphysical, in “never felt, a calm so deep” portrays an element which is not an actual person, because of the use of deep calm, which suggests the person is almost overwhelmed by his emotive state. I believe this element which Wordsworth continually makes references to is “mother nature” as a person who cares and thinks as he feels.
He shows this reference in “Tintern Abbey” where he shows a feeling of a tree spiritually inscribed with his name, “here, under this dark sycamore” shows his being protected by nature displaying a true love with nature present throughout all of his poems. He extends his view of nature in “Composed on Westminster Bridge” to include the love of buildings and impressive architecture with, “All bright and glittering in the smokeless air” when referring to the buildings which we come to know that make up London.
Blake makes reference to the metaphysical also with his references to control and oppression, a theme present all the way through, for example “the mind-forged manacles” shows a mental constraint like “manacles” which are in control of the bearer. This is an incredibly powerful image because of the idea of being able to control the inhabitants of London, keeping them to this strict rhythm of life which is so inescapable. This is backed up by “the hapless Soldier’s sigh” showing exhaustion and boredom and is shown as hapless or hopeless, depicting his inability to escape.
The youthful Harlot’s curse” also shows the desperation of the situation showing that she has broken the traditional script and must become a prostitute to feed her “new-born Infant” who was not expected and is going to grow up into the system never having a father. This demonstrates a sincere and evil side of London which is hinted on with the reference to the Royal Family, “runs like blood down palace walls. ” This terrible image is used to reinforce the desperation while also giving a good example of the metaphysical elements to the poem.
In conclusion, I have compared and contrasted the two poems highlighting the important lines describing the differences or similarities between the two poems. Both poems describe London as very different places although they both pick up on the metaphysical person, be it a spiritual being or an evil controller, giving us the feeling of inferiority and taking away our believed free will. I have also used my knowledge of other poems to reinforce my points and have tried to incorporate some of the history in England to understand the texts more fully.