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Can you show the figures of speech in the poem, "London, 1802" and analyze it?

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lovelydeer | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted May 30, 2009 at 5:52 AM via web

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Can you show the figures of speech in the poem, "London, 1802" and analyze it?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 30, 2009 at 6:26 AM (Answer #1)

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The poem is addressed to John Milton, who is dead, the figure of speech known as apostrophe is used.  

"Apostrophe, figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction is addressed as though present." 

There are similies and metaphors in this poem.  A similie is when you compare two unlike objects using the words like or as, a metaphor is when you compare two unlike objects and you say that the object is, for example, in line two, England is compared to a fen "she is a fen".

An example of a similie is in the line, "thy soul was like a star." 

Milton is compared to be "as pure as the naked heavens." This is a similie because of the use of the word as. His voice was like the sea, similie.

"Milton! thou shouldst 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 herself did lay." (Wordsworth)

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted May 28, 2009 at 10:14 PM (Answer #2)

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lovelydeer,

I am reproducing my repsonse to teardrop if enotes will allow it because I explained a great deal of the poem to them.

William Wordsworth's poem London, 1802, is reproduced here:

MILTON! thou shouldst 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;
    O 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 herself did lay.

Wordsworth’s apostrophe (speaking to inanimate object or non-existent object) to John Milton (MILTON!), has the effect of appealing to one of the greatest figures in the English literary tradition. It is likely that Wordsworth is thinking as much of Milton’s connection with the causes of freedom developed during the revolution and interregnum (1642–1660) as of Paradise Lost.

Wordsworth's claims that the church (altar), the military (sword), the intelligentsia (pen), home and family life (fireside), and the legal establishment (hall and bower) have all lost the sense of meaning and direction that is their heritage (have forfeited their ancient English dower).

The overstatement (hyperbole) of the "fen / Of stagnant waters" and the broad brush leveled against the institutions  are clearly designed to show Wordsworth’s general political alarm, not to describe each individual in the country. He therefore dramatizes his point that the country needs new thinkers, and new guidance, in the tradition established by Milton.

The claim Wordsworth makes for Milton is that the great poet was a special person, in tune with God and Nature, but that he was also a person who lived in “life’s common way.” Therefore he combined the intelligence and compassion necessary in a national leader. The metonymy of soul and heart refer to Milton’s spirituality and humanity.

The poem is a forbidding political sonnet to one of his greatest themes: there is a need to discover new and thoughtful leadership.

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