What is the problem in "London, 1802"?

The problems in the poem "London, 1802" are that England's people have become selfish, English morals have deteriorated, and that the poet John Milton is no longer alive to offer guidance through his writings and example.

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In the poem "London, 1802" by William Wordsworth, the poet presents a symbolic problem and a real problem, both of which are related. The symbolic problem is that the great poet John Milton is dead, and the English people of 1802, the year in which the poem was written, badly need him. According to Wordsworth, Milton embodied the personal qualities of "manners, virtue, freedom, [and] power," and he was able to impart these qualities to others. His "soul was like a star." In other words, he was able to offer guidance and direction to others. The poet affirms that Milton had a strong, pure, majestic, and free voice. He traveled "life's common way" of death, but he attained "godliness," or immortality, through his writings. Wordsworth's lament is that Milton is no longer alive to provide an example of how people should behave and live.

The real problem that Wordsworth shares in this poem is that because there is no one around like Milton to give guidance through his works and example, England's morals and society have deteriorated. England has become a "fen of stagnant waters," which means an unmoving swamp. This comparison applies to the altar (religion), the sword (the lack of willingness to fight for just causes), and the pen (the arts). "Fireside" and "bower" refer to their national home of England, whose people have forsaken their "dower," or ancestral entitlement or endowment, of happiness. Instead, the people of England have become "selfish men."

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