Romantic poets used many different forms of writing techniques in order to attract attention towards their work. In the poems ‘London’, ‘Ozymandias’ and ‘the Sick Rose’ the respective poets each use their own styles to do this, including many hidden meanings and metaphors in their work to puzzle and intrigue the reader, which 200 years ago, and still today, would have been a successful way to gain this attention. The attacks on the industrial revolution and its negative effects on the country are rife within these poems, and it’s these attacks which capture the readers imagination, as many of the audience would have see and heard about the effects first hand, and relate to the poems topic from their own experiences gaining the work much attention and consideration.
Each poet employs their own techniques in the development of their poems in order to grab the readers’ attention. As romanticists, spontaneity and personal experiences play important roles in their poems. London, by William Blake uses this technique immediately, ‘I wander thro’ each charter’d street’ beginning his poem; the readers attention drawn to this style and form of writing, as it’s spontaneous and exciting. The poet is writing about something he’s experienced first hand, something real that will have affected him personally. The reader will notice this and understand that this is something real that is affecting the writer, and could be something that affects them – possibly exciting the reader.
The poems Ozymandias and The Sick Rose employ the same technique. Blake writes the latter poem as an Apostrophe, and to the audience 200 years ago it would have attracted some attention, not because this concept of writing was unusual to them, but because it’s a personal and intimate thing to share and they would have been interested in what Blake had to say as a result. Ozymandias, although similar, uses a different method to The Sick Rose to attract attention, instead capturing attention through description and imagination.
Shelley states in his poem that he ‘met a traveller from an antique land, who said…’ As a poet, it’s important to create an interesting beginning to your poem – or else the reader will not be interested enough to continue reading. This opening is appealing to the reader as they’re left wondering exactly what the traveller said, and Shelley continues with a lot of interesting, descriptive passages that use a lot of imagination and dream like qualities, Shelley for example describing Ozymandias’ stone face ‘A sneer of cold command’ – giving the reader a fair amount of information, making the poem much easier to picture in the readers mind, and it therefore attracting popularity and attention.
Like Ozymandias, the Sick Rose uses a lot of description – although the majority of it is purely negative. Blake uses language like ‘sick’ and ‘dark, secret love’ to convey a harsh sense of negativity – similarly, a picture of the rose is created in the mind of the reader. London has the same type of feel and mood. Severe, negative language is used to maintain the image of a grim, smoggy city where no good is done; ‘chimney sweepers cry’ being an example of Blake’s attempt to convey his own portrayal of the city to the reader – something that would have undoubtedly shocked and interested the reader, as London was considered the heart of England at the time. It was the financial and economical centre of Britain, a place of wealth and prosperity, and so reading a poet more or less ‘trash talking’ the city would have been rather shocking to the reader 200 years ago, and would have therefore attracted quite a lot of controversial attention.
Although not in the same direct manner, poems Ozymandias and The Sick Rose convey this dislike and caution towards London, England and the Industrial Revolution in general at the time. In Ozymandias, Shelley uses a very subtle metaphor to summarise England’s problematic situation and disastrous future, using Ozymandias’ arrogance and foolhardiness to represent England feeling the effects of industrialisation: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings….look on my works, ye mighty and despair!” These ‘works’ as such would include gold, buildings, armies and general wealth and would have corresponded to England’s empire-like status.
Shelley shatters this glorious mage rather quickly, as the traveller notes that ‘nothing beside remains: round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.’ It’s obvious to the reader that someone did indeed challenge Ozymandias’ hardiness, his empire getting destroyed to the extent that ‘nothing beside remains’ the colossal, broken statue and Shelley believes England to suffer the same fate unless the country reverts back to its old, natural heritage rather than this new, industrialised way of living. ‘Ozymandias’ comes across as a warning to the people of Britain, a request for the country to change its ways – this new way of thinking would have undoubtedly attracted much attention form the public as a new and exciting topic of writing as a result.
Essentially, Shelley intends the intellectual reader to interpret the poem as this metaphor and he believes that everything, eventually – given enough time – will return to nature, as this is where Man is supposed to be. This message telling the audience that; if the industrial revolution isn’t careful, it will end in disaster would have really attracted attention for its new, intriguing ideology. To most of Britain the Industrial revolution would have been seen as a good thing, because it was persevering and modernising the country, and so reading about poets attacking it and portraying it as something wholly negative would have been fascination to the reader 200 years ago.
The Sick Rose, likewise, can be interpreted in a number of ways – one accepted theory being that the rose symbolizes Britain being eaten from the inside out by the consequences of the polluting industrial revolution. Blake sums up this revolution as an ‘invisible worm that fly’s in the night’ and it’s the ‘crimson joy’ that is all good and pure: the nature, the farms, the land – and it’s all been consumed by the hungry industry, described in the circumstance as ‘thy dark, secret love that thy life destroy’. It’s an interesting view to take by Blake, and as a result it’s something interesting to read about.
Blake continues this idea in London, as his negativity and dislike towards the city is described with vicious words and phrases, emphasising every bad point of the highly industrialised city: ‘Blackening church appals’ and ‘Chimney sweepers cry’ being just a few examples of how the industrial revolution, and the soot and the smog, is contaminating the lives and well being that, in the opinion of the writer, should belong to nature.
He goes on to explain the effects of the revolution on the minds of the population, ‘every cry of every man..’ and ‘the mind forg’d manacles I hear’. This suggests that the men and women of the time were oppressed mentally, that their minds were restricted by a number of factors, the government seemingly responsible for most of it.
Blake’s use of language also helps to attract considerable attention to this point. He describes the make up of London’s streets as ‘charter’d’, indicating that everything, everywhere had been given a legal notice of restriction. The overall feeling of the poem however indicates that it wasn’t just material possessions and property that were charter’d and restricted but the people too – given a strict set of rules by the government which had to be obeyed at all times. This authority led to the oppressed states of the people and their ‘mind forged manacles’. This oppression, resulting in protest, is later referred to by Blake as ‘blood run down palace walls’ as he believes the government and the hierarchy, living in the palaces, responsible for this censored society. It’s this hate for imposed authority and oppression that makes ‘London’ such a standout poem, and his controversial views on society would have attracted widespread attention from all classes.
These ideas are furthered as Blake explains how prostitutions has surfaced as a result of the intense poverty and hardship faced by the working class as a result of the industrial revolution. He describes how the ‘young harlots curse blasts the new born infants tear’ which would have been a very controversial and provocative statement to write about at the time. Talking to a higher-class audience about prostitution was not a common thing, and so the poem was received with shock and provocation. It was Blake’s extreme views that grabbed the attention of the reader, and ended up getting him imprisoned for treasonable expressions against the king.
The message that keeps recurring beneath the exteriors of all these poems is that industrialisation and technology is completely un-natural and has negative effects on London, England and in general the country’s people. The poets also intend for things to turn back to nature – the pure, un-ruined place where man ought to be.
Through the metaphors used in the Sick Rose, a feeling of not only negativity but also deception shines through and has an impression on the reader. The image of a rose has always been linked with beauty and positive things, but with a worm on the inside chewing its way out, destroying all that beauty, the image of it being ‘good on the outside but bad on the inside’ becomes evident. Likewise this image of deception is mirrored by the poem ‘London’.
During the 19th century London was the financial centre of the world, with money, prosperity, industry and trade, which any outsider would look on with awe and admiration. Anyone on the inside however, like Blake, would see the grim reality of the ‘blackening churches’ and the plentiful ‘youthful harlots’ and really see the city for what the writer thought it was -an un-natural, un-habitable, awful place.
Another accepted meaning of the Sick Rose, along with the Industrial Revolution theory, is that the rose symbolises a prostitute. Along with many other negative factors, the Industrial revolution made a lot of people very wealthy, and a lot of other people very poor. These two extremes resulted in a lot of young women resorting to prostitution in order to feed themselves and their family, and a lot of rich men willing to pay for the service.
As a resident of the city, Blake would have seen the effect first hand, and if indeed this is the meaning of this poem, Blake describes the girl as being ravished by a worm: ‘thy bed of crimson joy does thy life destroy’, presumably a metaphor for syphilis. To read about something as morbid as this would have been considerably provocative to an audience 200 years ago, especially a higher class audience who have learnt to avoid such and ignore the issues and problems of the lower classes. As a result, much attention and controversy would have surrounded the poem, simply for its sombre nature.
The reader can interpret the Sick Rose on many different levels, and their own opinion alone decides the meaning of the poem. To the more intelligent reader, the face value meaning of the poem will be forgotten for the higher, metaphorical levels of the poem, ranging from biblical to industrial interpretations. In a way, it is this choice given to the reader that helps to attract attention towards the poem, as they can decide for themselves using their own methods of thinking exactly what the meaning of the poem is.
In reflection, the Romantic poets of the 1800’s were all about a style and purpose of writing – to deliver their own messages and ideas across to their audiences, in an interesting and creative manner, which would have captured their attention quite successfully. In these three poems discussed, the poets use their own techniques and methods to create an easy and interesting poem to read, although many of the seemingly harmless images of the poems were actually facades for darker meanings. These thoughts and opinions on nature or the lack of it, prostitution and industrialisation and its negative effects gave the audience, who likewise would have experienced these things first hand, something to connect with – and as a result relate to the poem. These were just few of the ways in which the Romantic poets managed to capture their readers’ attention.