William Blake’s poem, “London”, was written in 1792 and is a explanation of a civilization, where the population was trapped and oppressed.
Blake begins the poem by discussing the economic system, where the reader learns of the consequences of the selling of people in a closed system of exploitation. Throughout the poem, repetition of specific words to emphasize the meaning of them, is a technique used frequently. The word “charter’d” (1-2) in the first stanza is used by Blake to describe the streets and rivers of Thames, which make the street and river sound authoritative, like they are guarded by laws and are privately controlled.
Blake continues and explains how every person he sees have visible “marks” (3-4) of weakness and woe, which can be associated with noticeable brands of agony and sorrow. In the second stanza, Blake repeats the word “every” (5-7) five times, where the word gives the reader a sense of commonality to all of the people that are suffering. And in other words it indicates that there’s nobody in London that isn’t affected by the exploitation nor immune to the disease. This perception is further instilled in the reader’s mind with the words “mind-forg’d manacles” (8) which represent the society in chains; imprisoned by the ideology and circumstances as the stanza itself has no anomaly from its iambic tetrameter meter and A-B rhyme scheme.
In the third stanza, multiple social status’ are listed, the chimney sweepers, the Church, and the soldiers, all which seemed to be troubled by the chaos. The chimney sweepers are a symbol of sorrow but also industrialization because in the city the number of dirty chimneys blackening the city was increasing. The Church is “black’ning” (10), and its notoriety is becoming more damaged as it is recklessly ignoring and overlooking the remorseless smoke that is overtaking the place that Blake discusses. And finally, the metaphor of the Soldier’s blood on the Palace Walls show a lack of government and the harsh treatment of the soldiers, which make up the corrupt and incoherent society.
This disunion can be proven in the third stanza where Blake no longer follows the general structure of poem and deviates from the iambic tetrameter meter. Then, in the last stanza the phrases “Harlot’s curse” (14) and “Infant’s tear” (15) are emphasized by the use of a technique of enjambment. From these lines, we see that it is now dark and the youthful Harlot’s do not have the chance to spend time with their children, due to the results of commerce and not love. This anguish is passed through generations, where the society will continue to be full of misery. In this stanza, the reader also sees happy marriages being undermined by death from the phrase “the Marriage hearse.” (16) Ultimately, William Blake’s poem is designed to show that for London to be taken out of despair and desperation they need vision.
Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” is a protest poem directed towards the American society postwar, where he writes about the lack of coherence between the modern world and nature. “A Supermarket in California” is written in prose form and does not follow any traditional meter, which when reads makes the poem seem unorthodox and prominent, something that a protester might try to achieve. At the beginning of the poem Ginsberg highlights the theme of consumerism by “shopping for images” (2). While the images are not real, the reader sees that he wants America to reconsider the structure of society, and go back to the circumstances Americans were in before the war took place.
On top of this, the reference to the supermarket in this suggests the idea of America, that revolves mainly around capitalism, where fruit is made to be the same and not produced from anywhere else. Then, in the following few lines Ginsberg writes about the differences between families who shop at night, rather than during the day. From this, I inferred that he was saying that these families were seen as normal and anyone who did not fit these standards were seen as different and atypical. And, in this poem these people were Allen Ginsberg, the author of this poem, Walt Whitman, and Garcia Lorca, who are all homosexual and do not have a place in their community because of it. Around the time when this poem was written, homosexuals were not seen as normal and were treated unfairly and unequally to others. Ginsberg writes that Walt Whitman is homosexual because he is characterized as “childless, lonely, old grubber” (4) instead of a husband.
But, Walt Whitman may have been included in this poem to refer to what America was like in his day compared to the brain-washed and deteriorating country that Ginsberg is describing. Ginsberg used phrases in the next few lines like, “who killed the pork chops? What price bananas?” (5) which question the economy of the time. In Walt WHitman’s time the staff would be able to answer these questions, but implying that the questions were not answered by the store’s employees, the reader sees that people in America do not realize what they are purchasing and as a result are not in tact with nature through the supermarket produce anymore. The reader is also able to tell that there was no form of capitalism that forced consumers to pay for their pleasures because it is hinted once that paying for pleasures in unfamiliar; “the doors close in an hour” (8) suggest that Ginsberg is becoming aware that Whitman’s view of the regular world and the fact that it won’t return because it cannot compare to the modern times where everything can be bought at a price.
During their adventure through the “solitary streets” (10) they come across things that represent “the lost America” (11). And then Ginsberg compares “the lost America” (11) to Greek Mythology, specifically Hades and the underworld. Charon, who was a protector of Hades, would send souls a river. In the poem, Charon came to a halt and let Walt Whitman exit the “smoking bank” (12) in Lethe. In Greek mythology, the Lethe river would make whoever drank from it forget things. This relates to the society that Ginsburg discusses and how everyone has forgotten the past.
The pork chops and bananas in the supermarket hadn’t connected the buyer to nature and where the fruit had first come from. This is what shows Ginsberg’s protest against the ever changing modern society, where America and its inhabitants were evolving for the worst.