When comparing Blake and Wordsworths pieces, the respective perspectives of the authors should never be far from our thoughts. Whereas Blake lived in London his whole life and seldom ventured outside its borders, Wordsworth was a rural person whose only experiences of London came from short visits. Unaccustomed to the hustle and bustle of City life, Wordsworth led a comparatively relaxed existence which perhaps accounts for his romantic and gentile style. We should not be surprised to see that Blake, a frequenter of the less-desirable districts of the capital, offers a far more cynical portrayal of London.
Blakes poem is a social commentary which points an ugly finger at the industrialist pioneers and the flaws of Industrial society. Blake was a renowned radical of the era with far-reaching ideas. He uses many literary devices to impart his opinions upon his audience. This is superbly demonstrated when he writes:
I wander through each chartered street
The reference is a metaphorical reflection on Blakes perception that anything and everything is for sale in an industrial society and, in particular, in its impoverished areas.
Repetition is clearly employed when the piece claims:
In every cry of every man,
In every infants cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear
The repetition could be equated with anything from the machinery at work in the factories and mills, to an assault of stabbing pain upon those suffering in poverty. Within the framework which Blake creates, the reader is left to determine his own idea of what the repetition may represent, and this is at the centre of the verses success.
Irony is employed with great effect in the verse beginning How the chimney-sweepers cry. The author contrasts the poverty and ill-health of chimney-sweeps with the wealth of the church, and suggests that instead of helping the poor the church pays them a pittance to work in hazardous conditions. Irony often stands side by side with black humour, and both are well-demonstrated in this verse. The amusing of the reader with a subject which should not amuse serves to further draw them into the piece.
In the latter part of the same verse, emotive comparisons are made between the plight of Londons less-fortunate and warfare. Blakes use of the word soldiers is no accident here; for soldiers are tools of war, and must have opponents. This leads the reader to ask: with whom are the soldiers at war? As Marx foretold and the French Revolution demonstrated, the working classes and those controlling the means of production operate with opposing aims. Blake brings a new element of severity to the situation by suggesting that forces are at work against the poor subjects.
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Wordsworth is blissfully unaware of the scenes which Blake paints. Indeed, Wordsworths London is so far removed from Blakes that one is led to ask whether the two are writing of the same city at all. There is a significant period of time between the two which could arguably account for this; Wordsworths work being written before the Industrial Revolution and Blake at its height.