The statement that “Beauty is truth; truth, beauty” does not hold to be a correct implication for everyone as far as life goes or the poem “London” goes. This poem written by William Blake, is about life as he saw it in that time frame and environment of society.
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In Blake’s, poem the reality or “truth” of young girls having babies out of wedlock, soldiers being killed in wars, and poor people struggling to make a living does not look beautiful to me. And so we ask ourselves the question, who does this truth look beautiful to.
“How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new born Infants tear, and blights with plagues the Marriage hearse”(lines 14-16). Having children at a young age and while being unmarried is an occurrence we see far too much of today in our own society. What animal can rejoice in this truth of breeding poverty, of child abuse, of ignorance, and of uneducated children and call it beautiful? Those that are chosen, no forced to lead our society in the past of our grandparents, are not getting the proper training to do so because of teen pregnancy and dropout rates. I am reminded of a dear friend of mine who birthed two children at the age of twelve and thirteen, how she struggled to regain her childhood but failed miserably. Now she just lives day by day thinking that there is no hope for her or her children. Blake saw the pain of this and yet he did not rejoice in its reality, but wept.
“And the hapless soldiers sigh Runs in blood down the Palace walls”(lines 11-12). Yes. Explain how the truth of families unnecessarily loosing loved ones to war can cause a merry celebration. A war of hatred or greed that was not their war to begin with, but the war of governments that didn’t quite get what they wanted out of a verbal agreement and needed the bloody LIBERTY of going into someone else’s country and take them over. What beast laughs in delight at this horrid truth and call it beauty?
“How the chimney-sweeper’s cry…” (line 10). The poor struggle in this country every day just as the peasants of the eighteenth century did. Low wages, bad working conditions, thousands crying out into the night for just a chance at being more than what they are. Where is their happiness and wealth? What tyrant sees the beauty in the truth of these poor lives? The truth that their mentality screams “no matter how hard they work and try, they can never earn enough to enjoy life, that rest comes with death, that money and power will always rule and that they will never rule anything.” As Blake writes in “The Chimney Sweeper,” “When my mother died I was very young, And my father sold me while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep. So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.”
Keats writes, “when old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, ‘Beauty is truth; truth, beauty’ that’s all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know…” (lines 46-50), but Blake didn’t feel or see beauty when he wrote this passage, he only saw the “marks of woe” (line 4) within this truth of society. So is it that only a tyrant, a beast, an animal, or a brut be the only soul that can look at poverty or pain and see the beauty in it’s rapture? Yes. As this pattern of a deterializing society continues I can only feel sadness and remorse for a society lost to its own greed and corruption. But what I do take from Keats passage is the urge to turn to my brother or sister in any moment of despair, no matter how life is treating them and say “it will be all right”. Maybe this is the true meaning of Keats’s passage.