The writers of the time, express their different opinions and views of London using a range of vocabulary and moods within their writing and poems.

Writing a poem in this day and age is a lot different to the kind of poem that was written in the mid/early 1800’s.

The general impression given by the writers of the time was that of a subtle message hidden within their words, these messages will hope fully be revealed and displayed within the following article.

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In the list of great writers within the 1800’s familiar names such as William Blake, William Wordsworth, Grace Nichols, Bill Bryson and the famous writer Charles Dickens.

Here is some background concerning these famous writers briefly describing their backgrounds and possible opinions.

William Blake

The first impression of ‘London’ written in a poetic form was created by William Blake entitled ‘London’. William Blake is one of the most original British poets and is also a major artist he added sketches and engravings to illustrate his poem and emphasis the mood of the poem.

Many people think he was mad due to his wild and different style of writing; the content he expressed in his poems was so different to that of his time people could not appreciate it for its true worth.

An extract from the poem: ‘London’ by William Blake.

‘In every cry of every man,

In every infant’s cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-for’d manacles I hear.’

In his poem ‘London’ he takes a tone of anger describing the sights and scenes that one may have seen at the time whilst walking down a typical London street some of the words he uses to describe what he sees and hears are ‘weakness’, ‘woe’, ‘fear’, ‘cry’, ‘black rung’, ‘sigh’, ‘curse’, ‘tear’, ‘blights’ and ‘plagues’. He creates and image in the readers head of young small children clambering up the tall chimney pipes to clean them if they became stuck the children suffocated and died he sends a depressing image across describing everything as being dull and depressing rather slow moving and a disheartening atmosphere.

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was known as a nature poet he was know as a ‘lake poet’ as he spent most of his life down by the lake district. He wrote a poem about London, he created the poem whilst standing on Westminster bridge very early in the morning before the city sprung to life and the general hustle bustle of everyday life began, he saw London as being attractive and a scene of awe as he stood there in amazement with feelings of awe and delight.

He describes the morning as being a site of beauty and serenity, ‘The City doth, like a garment wear the beauty of the morning; silent, bare’.

The whole poem gives you a vivid image of London in the early hours of the morning as he was standing on the bridge looking on to his peaceful silhouette known as London with the water running below his feet.

He uses rhyming couplets at the end of a line so it goes 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4 etc and portraits London as being a glamorous and beautiful place in the early hours of the morning, he also talks about London as if it was a Person asleep he refers to clothes

An extract from the poem: ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’

‘This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare’.

He has a very pro London feel about his writing and shows the good sights and scenes of the time unlike William Blake who shows the complete opposite if you like, and speaks about the gloomy atmosphere that engulfs London on a daily bases.

‘Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!’

Grace Nichols

Grace Nichols grew up in Guyana and came to Britain in 1977, she wrote this poem ‘Island Man’ from a Caribbean perspective comparing it to a tropical island rather than a rumbling suburb. She uses a free verse poem that presents the waking moments of a man that has travelled from a Caribbean island to settle in London.

The poem compares a tropical island with the sights and sounds of London, strange as this may seem the poem compares the two and matches them.

‘Morning and island man wakes up

to the sound of a blue surf

in his head.’

This is the man waking up in the morning to the sound of London’s streets in the morning he hears the ocean swashing on the beach rather than the machines clanging and churning he is indeed an island man.

He sees the fishermen and the ‘sun surfacing defiantly’, it seems the British sun is rather groggy and has to come back each day whether it wants to or not where as his island sun was up and out early in the morning.

‘Muffling, muffling

his crumpled pillow waves

island man heaves himself

Another London day.’

The quote above is the closing stanza in the poem and changes the mood of the poem totally at first the writer makes the man seem happy and shows him thinking about his surrounding but then in the mood changes for the worst the man seems fed up as he has to make an effort to get out of bed and get to ‘work’.

It makes you wonder whether he could have been a slave brought over to England to work as in those days ‘coloured’ people did not have very many rights!

Charles Dickens

In Charles Dickens’ novel little Dorrit, published in 1857, within the piece entitled Sketches by Boz that was published in 1839 Charles expresses more sincere thoughts and feelings about civil authorities, poverty and the general misery that consumed the great City of London.

Within the piece he talks about London and makes out that the place is rather dull and lacking life he says ‘No pictures, no unfamiliar animals and no rare plants or flowers’ in other words he is trying to tell us as the readers this particular place in London is nothing special and just like any other one might walk along whilst visiting. He uses descriptive words to convey his thoughts such as sharp, flat, cracked, jerking and throbbing. He uses repetition to show how each street is just the same ‘Nothing to breath but streets, streets, streets.’

He goes on to talk about the gin shops and hoe the Londoners are driven to drink due to the conditions of the city at that time, here people would gather and drown their sorrows and depressions of yet another London day.

I believe these great writers enjoyed their work immensely and yes some of our great poets did portrait London as a bit of a bland mix, when in some cases London is the most peaceful place on earth. The poets reflected both good and bad feelings towards London some were more anti than pro London. London must have been a very twisted place in the 1800’s, unlike today were there is some order! The images and thoughts written within the writers poetry creates a whole different perspective of London then and now.


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