Why did the poet write the poem of "London 1802"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "London, 1802," Wordsworth invokes the spirit of Milton in his savage indictment of contemporary England. At that time, England was changing rapidly, too rapidly for a lot of people, including Wordsworth himself. The country was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, which changed every aspect of society, especially the rural society that Wordsworth knew so well. Although the Industrial Revolution brought with it great wealth, it also created enormous poverty. Wordsworth believes that the headlong pursuit of wealth is damaging the moral fiber of the country, corrupting every aspect of society:

Altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness.

People are becoming more selfish, obsessed with the trappings of material wealth. This, in turn, is corrupting our very souls. What we need is to recover some of that old English virtue, so beautifully exemplified in the life and works of John Milton. He it was who constantly enjoined his fellow-countrymen to recognize virtue as the true precondition of national greatness; he it was who recognized that the exercise of liberty, be it of the economic or political variety, was utterly worthless if men did not live up to high moral standards.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This poem is probably one of Wordsworth's only nationalistic poems. He seems frustrated with the way English society has fallen away from the noble virtues of just a few years ago.

He begins the poem with an exclammation and a dramatic outcry.

Milton! England has need of you.

Wordsworth feels that Milton exemplified all that was good about English society. Milton wrote Paradise Lost some time back and was considered a moral and virtuous poet. Milton's soul is as bright as a star, he stood alone above the crowd. etc.

Wordsworth was concerned with ethical morality and the natural sense of morality his poems might communicate to his readers. Wordsworth was not a sensualist as some might imagine. He sees England as a quagmire or swamp full of selfish men. We wishes Milton were here to teach "manners, virtue, freedom, power."


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team