London Questions and Answers
by Samuel Johnson

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What is the meter used in the poem? What is the rhyme scheme of the poem, and what allusions are used?

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Blake's "London" is written chiefly in iambic tetrameter, in four-line stanzas with the rhyme scheme ABAB. I say "chiefly" because there are variations on the meter throughout the poem, as in, for instance, the fourth line of stanza 1:

Marks of weakness, marks of woe

The pattern here is stressed/unstressed, so it is trochaic instead of iambic, and there are only seven syllables in the line instead of eight. In stanza 3, all the lines follow this meter.

The striking lines about the "soldier's sigh" that "runs in blood down palace walls" are obvious allusions to the endless wars Britain and all the European powers engaged in at that time. Blake's point is the unfairness of a system in which the monarchy wages war for its own benefit, and soldiers, generally men impressed (i.e., forced) into military service, are the ones who pay for it with their lives. It is interesting that Blake published "London" as part of...

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