The Poems of William Blake

The Art of Paradox in William Blake's "London"

The concept of universal human suffering permeates through William Blake's dolorous poem "London," which depicts a city of causalities fallen to their own psychological and ideological demoralization. Though the poem is set in the London of Blake's time, his use of symbolic characters throughout the piece and anaphoric use of the term "in every" in the first and second stanzas indicate that Blake's backdrop of London is a connotative representation of all the world's cities, whose inhabitants represent all the world's people. In this sense, "London" is a poem about the universal human condition. It would be impossible to paraphrase "London" into prose, for its poetic meaning derives from the ambiguity of connotative language and from the necessity of unresolved paradox. The poem's beauty and power result from concrete and specific images of London that evoke the ecumenical idea that man is suspended between the society he lives in and his own indeterminate nature. Man is helpless; hovering between these diametric poles, he cannot even escape his own distress. Blake's theme unfolds through two central paradoxes in the poem---the fundamental and obvious paradox...

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