Critique of Industrialisation in The Last of His Flock and London
What if we were alive in 1970? What if we were forced into child slavery? What if we had no control over our own lives? This is what it was like during the industrial revolution and what Wordsworth and Blake express so evidently through their poems of protest. This essay will be analysing and contrasting to poems protesting the effects of industrialisation. ‘London’ by William Blake and ‘The Last Of His Flock’ by William Wordsworth, are two complementing poems that reveal the author’s opposition to the events and effects of the industrial revolution. While both Wordsworth and Blake write about the cruel commotions occurring in England during the 1970’s, they are represented in different ways, exemplifying different aspects of the industrial revolution. They both write through their experiences and how they perceive the streets as veiled by a sheet of sorrow. Wordsworth exemplifies this by personalising the poem, writing about his own sufferings. Whereas, Blake’s poem represents what he witnesses, focussing on the church’s authority by taking advantage of the audience’s five senses. Wordsworth and Blake wrote an individually compelling and effective poem though the utilization of various poetic devices such as juxtaposition, diction and hyperboles. All of these create an overall effect of a desolate, dehumanised and corrupt society during the 1700s.
The Last of the Flock, Represents the effect the Industrial Revolution had on the lively hood in society. By relating back to hindrances that occurred in the 1700s, Wordsworth effectively draws similarities from approximately 300 years ago to modern society throughout the cyclic dilemmas. This symbolism is aided through the use of numerous poetic devices such as symbolism and rhetorical questions. During the beginning of the poem, Wordsworth writes? About the abnormality of an English man, revealing his emotions in public. In Stanza one, line ten, he then notices “in his arms a Lamb he had.” By utilizing the word lamb, he successfully symbolises innocence and impurity through the representation of Christianity and religion. In Christianity, a lamb is depicted as virtuous as God was commonly referred to as the good shepherd which implies that the man was undeserving of the cruel and unforgiving society he lived in.
Furthermore, in stanza three, line two, the shepherd refers to himself as being a ‘young folly’ which shows that he was unaware of the consequences his actions might cause. He was living his best childhood, acting foolishly. But, when this idea is juxtaposed just below, “an ewe I bought; and another sheep from her I raised”. This contrast implies that the man was forced to mature with responsibility. He was satisfied with his life “married, and… rich” and was proficient at compartmentalisation of his private and business life. He was contempt.
As the poem continues however, his fortune begins to change. His “pride was tamed” and he “sold a sheep, as they had said and bought my little children bread.” He explains that he was obliged to omit his source of income and assets in order to provide for his family. This soon leads the shepherd into a spiral of hopelessness even though his children were happy, he never was. He watched is life’s work “melt, like snow away,” witnessing the inevitably of heartache. This use of imagery shows a slow descent and thus implies that the pain was gradual and torturous. “Another still, another still… it was a vein that never stopped.” Wordsworth repeats the idea that his loss is continuous, giving the impression that he is metaphorically, slowly bleeding to death in agony. He was in so much distress and desperation that “wicked fantasies crossed his mind.”
Additionally, in other versions of this poem the phrase, “For me it was a woeful day,” reoccurs in the last line of numerous stanzas. This adaptation, effectively accentuates the shepherd being in a state of distress and remorse, clasping onto The Last Of His Flock. Therefore, this poem successfully represents the effect the Industrial Revolution had on the lively hood in society.
Similarly, London reflects Blake’s dissatisfaction and vexation towards life in London. He describes the morbid and corrupt socioeconomic decay of society and the environment, as well as exaggerating the hopelessness which followed. The beginning of the poem opens with the imagery of a man walking through the busy and overburdened streets, creating an impression that he is the only one willing to move forward. “I wander thro’ each charter’d street.” In the first stanza, line one, Blake focuses on imagery by juxtaposing the idea that the government is controlling the streets. ‘Wander’ connotes a leisurely stroll through a depraved environment which explains that even though society is controlled by the government, he chooses to walk freely through the chaos. By beginning the poem with this idea, Blake sets the setting for the rest of the poem; frenzied and dilapidated.
Moreover, later on in the first stanza, Blake implies that every person he has come across has “Marks of weakness, marks of woe.” This refers to the metaphorical scars left by the oppressive system that makes them appear vulnerable and thus implying that they were unfairly treated.
Additionally, in the second stanza, Blake repeats the idea of a distraught society by emphasising ‘every’, explaining that the suffering is experienced all through your life. “In every cry of every man. In every Infants cry of fear. In every voice: in every ban,” the anguish doesn’t discriminate. Blake evaluates the “chimney-sweepers cry every blackening church appals,” not only refers to the coal stains due to the industrial revolution, but also that societies allegiance to the government, meaning that society have become slaves and to the government due to their allegiance to the church. This stands as a chastisement to the church, symbolising it as clean but morally corrupt.
Furthermore, in the fourth stanza, Blake further expresses the idea of a depraved church and government through the use of imagery and diction. In the third line of this stanza, “the youthful Harlots curse blasts the new-born infant’s tear.” This symbolises that young, innocent girls are being forced into prostitution so they don’t reach poverty. By referring to a crying new born, it shows that the corrupt society attacks the innocent and vulnerable. In the next line, Blake uses an oxymoron of a ‘marriage-hearse’ to imply that marriage is an oppressive institution of the church but also symbolises that marriage was not seen as a blessing but instead a prevalence of death. Therefore, through the use of numerous poetic devices, Blake successfully protests about the corruption of the church and government whilst creating an image of an impoverished society and
However, in spite of the differences, both Wordsworth and Blake adopt similar poetic styles to successfully design a poem that protests about the effects of the Industrial Revolution. First of all, both poets rely on discerning diction to emphasise certain aspects of the poem. For example, in The Last of the Flock, Wordsworth uses the line, “To-day I fetched him from the rock” to create an image of a non-vertical land in which his flock is unable to live on. By carefully choosing the word rock, it exaggerates the influence industrialisation has on the land and therefore the effect it has on the livelihood of society. Similarly, Blake employs the phrase, “mind-forged manacles I hear.” This creates imagery of someone who is restricted from moving which represents the limitations and denigration of the human imagination as a result of the corrupt society. Both uses of diction illustrate a different image, however they both equally use them to affect the reader’s attitude, but also further convey the meaning behind the poem.
Additionally, both poems effectively juxtapose the idea of a content society to the one they were currently in; chaotic and melancholy, to emphasise the extent of the suffering and adversities. During the beginning of the poem, Wordsworth conveys the idea that he is satisfied with his life and he was all he “could wish to be”, however, towards the end of the poem he repeats that everything he worked so diligently for just “melted away”. Similarly, Blake uses a comparable juxtaposition “how the chimney-sweeper’s cry every blackening church appalls.” Which symbolises the slavey of innocent children as the image of dirty, vulnerable youth juxtaposes the imagery of a clean but fraudulent church. While both poets use the juxtaposition in separate ways, they are each used to accentuate the substantial difference between how life used to be, to how it was after Industrialisation. It is in human nature to comprehend one thing by comparing to another, so the use of juxtaposition is essential in the development of the poems overall meaning. Therefore, in spite of the differences, both poets adopt similar poetic styles to successfully design a poem that protests about the effects of the Industrial Revolution.
Corrupt, torturous and agonising. Wouldn’t you want to protest if this was your life? This is the prime point of protest; expressing an opinion in order to be heard and influence the public opinion. Protest is still present in modern society in different aspects of life. Overall, ‘London’ and ‘The Last of his Flock’ are two complementing poems that reveal the authors opposition to the events and effects of the Industrial Revolution. Wordsworth, exemplifies this by personalising the poem, writing about his own sufferings. Whereas, Blake’s poem represents what he witnesses, focussing on the church’s authority by taking advantage of the audience’s five senses. Wordsworth and Blake wrote an individually compelling and effective poem though the utilization of various poetic devices such as juxtaposition, diction and hyperboles. All of these create an overall effect of a desolate, dehumanised and corrupt society during the 1700s.