Poem introduction

This polemical poem – a rare instance where polemic and poetry walk hand in hand in perfect unison – is a devastatingly concise and passionate indictment of the London and the times that Blake lived in, which could still apply to our own. The oppressive nature of capitalism, the corrupt institutions of power – the law, church, monarchy, army, the way in which our personal relationships are inescapably bound together and poisoned in a destructive society where even the mind is not free to think, are all powerfully depicted within its sixteen lines. The repetitions, pounding rhythm, the cinematic movement, emblematic figures, bring to life a city, a society from whose ills no one is immune.

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