Optimism and Pessimism in London Literature
Two intelligent individuals can observe the identical object but interpret it differently due to their attitudes. Some people find pleasure in the ugliness of London while others contrast it with beauty. During the 18th century, London was not an enjoyable environment and authors depict it in varying ways through imagery, tone, and diction in the poems “London, 1802” by William Wordsworth and “London” by William Blake.
Authors utilize imagery in order to portray various aspects and characteristics of a specific time period, while also employing language that appeals to the senses. While Wordsworth acknowledges the unattractiveness of London, he utilizes his imagery to highlight beauty, purity, and the past—specifically referencing the pristine world of Milton. On the other hand, Blake’s imagery predominantly focuses on the unsightliness, filthiness, and the presence of disease among the impoverished individuals. Wordsworth yearns to escape from the distress encompassing London in its present state, longing for a return to its previous condition. He emphasizes the importance of John Milton’s involvement in striving to overcome the current ugliness plaguing London.
Wordsworth examines the optimistic remedies to the unsightliness, while Blake complains about the unsightliness plaguing London without proposing any solutions. Blake acknowledges the reality of his environment and highlights it to the fullest extent. He portrays the poverty and hopelessness of the ordinary person through the depiction of an “infant’s cry of fear” (In 6), making it relatable to the general public. In addition to imagery, both authors utilize tone as a significant tool for conveying their perspectives.
In “London, 1802,” Wordsworth presents a hopeful perspective on the setting by emphasizing coherent solutions and inviting the reader to view it through tone. By addressing Milton, Wordsworth compares the present life with life in the past. He asserts that London requires “manners, virtue, freedom, [and] power” (8) for all individuals. While discussing the need to address current issues, his tone suggests that reflecting on the past is the key to finding solutions.
Blake, however, focuses on the distress, suffering, and dirty pollution that are prevalent in London. It doesn’t matter where one is in the city, people are seen as vulnerable individuals. Through a tone of anger, Blake communicates the truth of life and grieves for the sadness that is experienced. Wordsworth and Blake’s tones provide insight into their respective levels of empathy during that era. Despite addressing the same topic, they employ different word choices.
Language undergoes significant changes with each generation, but both Wordsworth and Blake employ archaic diction, which is fitting for their respective eras. Wordsworth utilizes diction that was commonly used during Milton’s time as a tactic to link the present with the past. On the other hand, Blake composes in the language of his own time, which resonates more with contemporary readers, thus enhancing the depiction of distress and hopelessness experienced in London.
Authors can effectively convey emotions and requests using imagery, tone, and diction, whether the impact is positive or negative. In their works, Wordsworth and Blake offer contrasting perspectives on the ugliness of London and express different approaches.