London, 1802

LONDON, 1802

Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay. [From "The Poetical Works of Wordsworth", pp. 287. Introduction by Paul D. Sheats. Cambridge ed. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1982.]

"London, 1802"" is a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. In the poem Wordsworth castigates the English people as stagnant and selfish, and eulogizes seventeenth-century poet John Milton.

Composed in 1802, "London, 1802" was published for the first time in "Poems, in Two Volumes" (1807). Like all sonnets, its 14 lines are written in iambic pentameter, and it's formed using the Petrarchian rhyme scheme, ("a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a, c-d-d-e, c-e").

tructure and synopsis

Wordsworth begins the poem by wishing that Milton was still alive, for "England hath need of thee." This is because England has stagnated, its people selfish and unhappy, its splendor and power lost. But Milton could change all that. Milton could "raise us up, return to us again; / And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power."

In the six subsequent lines (the sestet) following the first eight lines (the octet), Wordsworth explains why Milton could improve the English condition. Milton's soul, he explains, was as bright and noble as a star and "dwelt apart" from the crowd, not feeling the urge to conform to norms. Milton's voice resembels "the sea", "pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free". Furthermore, Milton never sought to resent the ordinary nature of life, but instead "travel [ed] on life's common way", remaining happy, pure (cheerful godliness), and humble (taking the "lowliest duties" on himself).

"London, 1802" reveals both Wordsworth's moralism and his growing conservatism.Phillips, Brian." [ London, 1802] ". "SparkNote on Wordsworth's Poetry". Retrieved on 17 August, 2007.] Wordsworth frequently sought to "communicate natural morality to his readers" through his poetry. In this sonnet, he urges morality and selflessness on his readers, criticizing the English for being stagnant and selfish, for lacking "manners, virtue, [and] freedom." But he also refers to "inward happiness" as a natural English right, or "dower," and asks Milton to bestow "power" as well as virtue on the English. These are among Wordsworth's "few explicitly nationalistic verses--shades, perhaps, of the conservatism that took hold in his old age."



* Woodring, Carl. "Wordsworth". Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

External links

* [ Wordsworth biography and works]

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