In this essay I will be looking at how we can see Heaven represented in Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils” and how this is shown using language and literary techniques. I will talk about what effect the language used gives and how the imagery in the poem conjures up visions of Heaven. I will also be exploring how Blake uses language and form to create visions of Hell in his poem “London”. I will look at how he draws from his experience of the city to produce imagery, which truly shows the reader how he feels and gets his message across.
I will also look at the similarities between the poems and how they relate to each other.
In Wordsworth’s poem, he uses a lot of visual imagery, which you would associate with Heaven. For example, ‘lonely as a cloud’, a cloud representing something not of this earth, therefore heavenly, this is used at the very start of the poem in order to get the reader in the mind set to comprehend the meaning which the poet is trying to communicate.
Similarly, ‘Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way’, shows an idea which is not of this earth, and so would seem to be of somewhere less real and more spiritual, like Heaven.
In Blake’s poem, he also uses imagery to depict an effigy of Hell. He looks at ‘How the Chimney-sweepers cry’ which would create thoughts of burning, which would be what a lot of people associate with Hell and the idea of suffering.
Blake expresses his feelings of frustration and sadness. He describes “chartered” streets and “chartered” Thames, which emphasises how everything has been taken over and oppressed. The tone of this poem expresses his awareness of the unhappiness around him around him “marks of weakness, marks of woes”. This shows how he feels about the society around him and how it is similar to that which you would imagine to be in Hell.
Colours are used in each poem to bring forward a certain mood within the poems. In “Daffodils” The use of ‘golden’ gives the idea of heaven, as this colour is associated with being grand, luxurious, and expensive, things, which you would expect in heaven. It is also the colour used to dress angels, for their wings and halos, so it is quite a pure colour. In ‘London’, the colour black is used, which draws a very bleak picture of the poet’s surroundings and feelings, and turns it to a very dark poem.
The poems have subtle similarities also, but used in slightly different contexts, like the use of the word wandered. While “I wandered” in Wordsworth’s poem is set in the past tense, implying a division between past and present, London begins with the verb set in the present tense. This implies that the poem concerns timeless realities unbounded by references to any particular incident. In addition, in Daffodils wandered is used to mean no specific place to go, as in the poet is walking alone. However, in Blake’s poem, he uses it as if he is wandering with a purpose taking in all that s around him.
The true joy in Wordsworth’s poem comes from nature, the natural form of the daffodils which acts as a teacher, it teaches him to dance and to notice things around him, and is there as a support for him, almost like a friend. There are lots of natural images in the poem to reinforce this, ‘Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.’ this also looking a t nature in dance and rhythm, music having links with harmony, would of course point towards heaven. The idea of nature being adhered to also hints at heaven, as this is where you are thought to go when you die, which is part of your natural course.
Blake’s “London”, far from expressing the feelings of elevation and joy that characterise “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, presents a dismal picture of London as a symbol of fallen humanity. The poem reveals the most negative sense of “to wander”, that namely that associated with the Fall and its consequence, for it focuses attention on Man’s almost total loss of moral freedom and on acts of violence, ‘Runs in blood down palace walls.’ The ides of oppression is also a strong theme in this poem, ‘The mind-forg’d manacles I hear’, this is as though people are trapped, or are being punished for something, as they would be in Hell. This also creates a strong visual image for the reader of people being shackled, which is often associated with Hell. This is a particularly prominent line in the poem also as alliteration has been used to make it stand out.
Throughout “Daffodils”, there are references to things, which aren’t realistic. For example when he says the daffodils ‘stretch’d in never-ending line’ this seems to me as if it is implying it is beyond the reaches of earth and of mortal comprehension, as if luring the poet towards heaven. It also describes the daffodils as, ‘tossing their heads in sprightly dance.’ which compares the daffodils to magical creatures, or creatures not of this earth, as if they are a little part of heaven on earth.
The sadness in London turns to aggression as the poem proceeds, criticising the Church and even the corruption of marriage. “And blights with plagues the marriage hearse”. There is a hopelessness and desperation expressed within this poem. The poem talks about the ‘hapless Soldiers’ as if the had no choice in their situations and fought against how their situation has unfolded, their unlucky situations create a sense of bitterness towards the cause of their circumstances.
The poem Daffodils also uses personification, which gives human qualities to animals or lifeless objects. In this poem, Wordsworth repeatedly personifies the daffodils. He calls them a “crowd,” a “host,” and “company.” He has them “dancing” and “tossing their heads.” The waves also dance, and the clouds wander. It is as though he is trying to create company for himself, also emphasising the idea of them being his friends.
William Blake’s exploration of the end of innocence through children is deserving of certain poignancy. The way in which people of a higher education and rich status have exploited these people insinuates a somewhat sombre tone throughout the poem. An industrialisation of London is brought forward; “Near where the charter’d Thames does flow”. The Thames, being a river is natural, but as the word “charter’d” comes before, Blake may be suggesting “mans influence”. Pollution another consequence of man’s influence is also something, which runs throughout the poem. An association of physical pollution, in the form of soot and the shedding of blood, with moral corruption in high places, in “church” and “palace”, is effected by the imagery of the third stanza. The choice of the word “blights” in the fourth strophe reinforces the poem’s theme of pollution
The poem is also a conversational poem. Wordsworth first describes in stanzas one and two the natural scene that he is reflecting on, the field of daffodils. He then describes in stanza three the feelings that this scene evokes in him: joy, happiness, and peace, calm. Finally, in stanza four, he mediates on the importance of this moment in his life.
“How the Chimney-sweepers cry”, we know from history that children where given the arduous task to clean the chimneys out, with that came serious health hazards, many resulting in cancer. The imagery of children suffering always maintains impact. Children are seen as naive and innocent. For them to be exploited through child labour, Blake tries to give rise to a feeling of sympathy. A contrast is used in the line “Every black’nin Church appalls”, normally churches are portrayed in the opposite light as something holy, safe and pure yet they turn a blind eye to the despair of the people.
In the last stanza, he tells us that when he is “in vacant and pensive mood,” depressed and thoughtful, the daffodils “flash upon that inward eye.” That “inward eye” is memory. Memory is the “bliss of solitude.” When we are alone and feeling down, we turn to our memories of happier times to make us feel better. He did not realise the “wealth” of this experience at the time that he had it, but his memory of the daffodils helps heal him. Day dreaming or imagining he is in this earlier, happier emotional place helps him get through the less pleasant times in his life. This poem is about the importance of Nature and memory. They can be tools to aid one during the difficult times of life.
Perhaps the “youthful Harlot’s curse” is syphilis. This would explain why it “blasts the new born Infant’s tear”- syphilis causes blindness in babies born to infected mothers. In addition, the words “blast”, “blight”, and “plague” are all synonymous with disease. In fact, I believe all three are plant diseases. The last line- “And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.” Carrying my thought through, I think this simply means that the prostitute’s customers will become infected and carry the disease into their marriages. Syphilis being a fatal disease, this turns the institution of marriage into carriage for disease and then death.