London 1802 is a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth ad was first published I poems, in Two Volumes in 1807. The poem is written I the second person and addresses the late poet John Milton, who lived from 1608-1674 and is most famous for having written paradise Lost.
The poet beings the poem by addressing the soul of the dead poet John Milton, saying that he should be alive at this moment in history, for England needs him. He goes on to describe England as a marshy land of stagnant waters where everything that was once a natural gift (such as religion, chivalry, and art, symbolized respectively by the altar, the sword, and the pen) has been lost to the scourge of modernity. He asks Milton to come back once more to live among them and to rise their moral standard by teaching them unselfishness and giving them manners, virtue, freedom and power.
According to Wordsworth, Milton was different even from his contemporaries in terms of the virtues such as manners, virtue, freedom and power. He is different from others also in the sense that he adhered to his opinions even when everyone gave them up. He tells Milton that his voice was like the sea and the sky, a part of nature and therefore natural: majestic, free.” The speaker also complements Milton’s ability to embody cheerful godliness” even while doing the “lowliest duties”.
The poem is written in the form of a Petrarchan or an Italian sonnet. The Italian sonnet is divided into two sections. The first section consists of first eight lines and it is called octave. The second section consists of the last eight lines and it is called sestet. The rhyme scheme of the octave is fixed: abba abba; but the rhyme scheme of the sestet varies. It may be cde cde, cdc, dcd, cdc, cdc, or cde, dce. London 1802 is a Petrarchan sonnet. It is divided into two parts- octave and sestet is cddece.
The Petrarchan sonnet characteristically treats its theme in two parts. The first eight lines, the octave, state a problem, ask a question, or express an emotional tension. The last six lines, the sestet, resolve the problem, answer the question, or relive the tension. In the Petrarchan sonnet there is a change in subject matter. This change occurs at the beginning of line 9. This change in subject matter is called the Volta, or “turn’’. It is at the Volta that the second idea is introduced. In London 1802, the octave develops the idea of the decline and corruption of the English race, while the sestet opposes to that loss the questions Milton possessed which the race now desperately needs.
In the poem, the poet has used several figures of speech such as apostrophe, simile, metaphor and metonymy. The poem beings with an apostrophe, which is a direct address to Milton. Wordsworth metaphorically compares England to a fen of stagnant waters. He uses similes when he compares Milton’s soul to star and his voice to the sound of the sea and the purity of Milton’s soul is compared to the cloudless sky. He also uses metonymy by using alter, sword, pen and fireside for religion, military, literature and home respectively.
The poem has two main purposes, one of which is to pay homage to Milton by saying that he can save the entirety of England with his nobility and virtue. The other purpose of the poem is to draw attention to what Wordsworth feels are the problems with English society.