“London, 1802” by William Wordsworth Poem and Analysis

London, 1802“London, 1802” by William Wordsworth is a poem begging John Milton, who died in 1674, to come back to life.

Let’s take a look at exactly what Wordsworth says so we can analyze it.

Summary

“London, 1802” simply begs Milton to return. It says that without him, England has turned into rubbish without literary talent. It states that he needs to return because we are selfish and need him to bring us happiness.

Analysis

Title: “London, 1802” – This is the reference to place and time Wordsworth is referring to. He also makes us look at the date to realize that it was written 128 years after Milton’s death.
Style: Italian Sonnet
Theme: Death
Tone: Sad
Rhyme scheme: ABBAABBA-CDDECE

Line by Line Analysis and Figurative Language Meanings

  • Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour: – Referring to John Milton. He is dead and the speaker wishes he is still alive. “this hour” means right now.
  • England hath need of thee: she is a fen – She refers to England. “Fen” means a wetland fed by underground water.
  • Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, – this line and the previous work well together. To summarize, the author is stating England is flooded by stagnant waters. Stagnant with the alter (religion), stagnant with the sword (fighting for the things Milton believed in), and stagnant with the pen (where are England’s new wave of extraordinary authors?)
  • Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower, – Fireside = Home, referring to England. Bower means living quarters.
  • Have forfeited their ancient English dower – A dower is an endowment. This means England has no longer their forefathers prestige.
  • Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; – Men are selfish because they want happiness for themselves.
  • Oh! raise us up, return to us again; – The speaker is asking Milton to return to England
  • And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. – MEGA – Make England Great Again
  • Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart: – Milton’s soul was like a “Star” – amazing, fantastic, heroic. But it has remained away from us (because he is dead).
  • Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: – By “voice” he is referring to artistic voice. Milton died long before Henley was born.
  • Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, – The speaker says Milton’s artistic abilities were these qualities. “Naked heavens” refers to the purity of heaven.
  • So didst thou travel on life’s common way, – “life’s common way” means death.
  • In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart – Milton died like a god. He forever lives on through his writings.
  • The lowliest duties on herself did lay. – Yet, to the speaker, he is sad.

Poem: “London, 1802” by William Wordsworth

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.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia. Get his newest poetry eBook here.