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Blake and Swift

18th century London, it seems, was not a city of beauty or mirth; that is, at least, for the poets William Blake and Jonathan Swift. Blakes London and Swifts A Description of a City Shower are both poems in which the pervading theme is one of a dark, miserable city. London is portrayed as a cold and unredeemable city in both the 1710 poem of Swift, and the 1793 poem of Blake. These works, over eighty years apart, are so strikingly similar in their themes and focus that it is evident that English society, especially that in cities, had changed little, retaining its oppressive social order. Blake and Swift, acutely aware of such problems, use their poetry to make scathing social commentaries. Blake's dismal "London" connects various characters and socio/political institutions in order to critique the injustices perpetrated in England. The busy, commercial city of London functions as a space in which the speaker can imagine the inescapable connections between social institutions and the citizens of that society. Although separated by differences of class and gender, the citizens of London brush up against each other so that the misery of the poor and dispossessed is a direct indictment of the callousness of the rich and powerful, and also the institutions of state and religion.The speaker of the poem emphasizes the social and economic differences that separate the citizens of London. By repeating the word "chartered" in the first two lines, he reminds the reader of the commercial nature of the city, the fact that portions of it are owned (even the river Thames), and that not everyone has equal access to goods or property. Even though there is a distinct separation of class and prosperity, Blake notices marks of weakness, marks of woein every voicethe mind-forged manacles (lines 4-5, 7-8). The suffering is universal, evidently brought on by the folly of man himself. Man creates industry and thereby sentences himself to its miser...

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