An Analysis of Religion, Military and Prostitution in London, a Poem by William Blake

In ‘s “London,” Blake takes a stance on a religious issue, a political issue, and a social issue, and through his use of irony, imagery, personification, and hyperbole, we gain insight into how Blake feels about each: disgusted. While the entire poem is one that shows the suffering of man, Blake focuses on a few specific instances of suffering, and one of them is the life of a chimney sweeper. Blake shows us “how the Chimney-Sweepers cry” and that “every blackening Church appals,” meaning they are indifferent to the situation (9-10).

This is ironic because the Church is supposed to be kind, understanding, and interested in the well-being of individuals, but instead, the “blackening,” or corrupt Church will not even help the sweepers (10). In this way, Blake demonstrates his disgust for the Church. Instead of being the shining beacon of hope, the Church has turned a cold shoulder to the plight of the Chimney Sweepers, and this disgusts Blake.

Blake also relates to the soldiers who have given up all hope. Blake writes, “the hapless Soldier’s sigh/Runs in blood down Palace-walls,” showing us that the soldiers have resigned to dying for the monarchy (11-12). Blake’s imagery tells us that innocent blood has been spilled in the name of the monarchy, and many more will die as well. In addition, Blake’s personification of the sigh running down the palace walls creates a powerful image of the soldier’s very life force giving up on hope entirely. Through these images, Blake conveys his disgust for this horrendous political nightmare, for more and more innocent soldiers are sent to die each day.

Finally, Blake discusses his views on a large social issue: prostitution. Immediately it becomes evident that Blake is repulsed by prostitution, and he uses hyperbole to demonstrate his disgust. Blake describes the prostitute as a “youthful Harlot” whose “curse/Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,” exemplifying his repulsion towards prostitution (14-15). Not only does Blake say that it corrupts infants, but it also “plagues the Marriage hearse,” meaning it destroys marriages, which are sacred in society (16). The Harlot causes the man to be unfaithful to his spouse, and as a result, illegitimate children are born, and this disgusts Blake as well. Through his careful usage of irony, imagery, personification, and hyperbole, Blake allows us to see into his mind and shows us how disgusted he is with the institutions of organized religion, the military, and prostitution.

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