William Blake vs William Wordsworth: Moral Crisis Element Comparison

Categories: William Blake

Compare/Contrast Essay

William Blake’s “London” and William Wordsworth’s “London, 1802” are both centered on a London that’s changing for the worse, undergoing a moral crisis and the rapid degradation of English society as a whole, including its previous virtues and proper etiquette. Their poems are first-person accounts as to what’s occurring and the slow disappearance of decency in the city. Although both poems feature the city in a dark time, they differ in several aspects due to the varying writing styles of the authors, influenced by their religion, politics, and personal histories.

Within the content of both poems, Blake and Wordsworth both note the theme of a vanishing Victorian morality in an increasingly depraved London, they stray in their portrayals of the once noble city. Wordsworth, a devout member of the Church of England and a conservative, pleads to the deceased John Milton, whom he considers to be an embodiment of English virtue, to save them from themselves before it is too late: “We are selfish men: Oh! Raise us up, return to us again; and give us manners, virtue, freedom, power” (Wordsworth).

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Blake, known to have been an opponent of established religion and radically liberal for his time, comments on how prostitution, an immorality that women were shamed for, was becoming more openly acceptable; and that religion, once the underpinning of English society, had started losing its appeal: “Every black’ning Church appalls… How the youthful Harlot’s curse blasts the new born infants tear, and blights with plagues the Marriage hearse” (Blake).

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English society was on the verge of becoming the sin-city of its time, and both poets, while aware of that fact, digress when it came to describing the situation.

Within the composition of both poems, Blake and Wordsworth differ in many respects. In regards to the speaker, Blake’s “London” is told from a first-person point-of-view, with the audience perceiving London from his eyes: “I wander thro’ each charter’d street,” (Blake), while Wordsworth’s “London, 1802” is one of his notable conversation poems told from a second-person point-of-view, with Wordsworth beseeching the deceased John Milton, as a salvific figure, for his help. In regards to diction, Blake and Wordsworth also digress, with Blake speaking in a more casual and colloquial voice, which fits his personality as an everyman that resents any caste-division of British society; as opposed to Wordsworth’s more formal, medieval voice, which reflects his noble upbringing into an upper-class family. With form, Blake’s “London” fits the standard of iambic tetrameter, as opposed to Wordsworth’s “London, 1802” having been written in the form of a classic Italian sonnet i.e. iambic pentameter, the more common form. While Wordsworth’s “London, 1802” paints the picture of a poet talking to a fellow dead poet (or rather himself), Blake’s “London” brings to mind an image of a man walking through a diseased city at night, pointing out various indecencies that are taking place.

Both poets, having been born and bred in London, witness London as it is falling apart with the vices of the residents being the cause. Regardless of the similarities and differences between the poems previously mentioned, William Blake and William Wordsworth both elegantly convey the dissipation of English morality in their own way; the romanticizing of morality through associating good and evil with aspects of the natural world, which carries along the meaning of the poem to the reader and delivers the idea that London needs saving before it is too late to do anything about it.

Updated: Feb 28, 2024
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William Blake vs William Wordsworth: Moral Crisis Element Comparison. (2024, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/william-blake-vs-william-wordsworth-moral-crisis-element-comparison-essay

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