London, 1802 by William Wordsworth poem summary line by line

London, 1802 by William Wordsworth poem summary line by line

London, 1802 by William Wordsworth poem summary line by line-In "London, 1802," William Wordsworth passionately appeals to the eminent poet John Milton, expressing a profound yearning for his presence and guidance amidst what is perceived as a society in moral and spiritual decline. This poem's introduction sets the stage for a contemplative journey into the state of England, prompting readers to reflect on the erosion of traditional values and virtues, and the pressing need for regeneration and revival.  

London, 1802 by William Wordsworth poem summary line by line

Through the invocation of Milton's memory, Wordsworth not only pays tribute to a literary luminary but also evokes a symbol of moral authority and national pride, emphasizing the enduring influence of literature and tradition in shaping societal ideals. 

London, 1802 by William Wordsworth poem summary line by line-With vivid imagery and emotive language, the poem urges readers to ponder the moral and social dilemmas confronting England in the early 19th century, while highlighting the timeless importance of moral rectitude, humility, and duty in fostering a virtuous society.

London, 1802 Poem Summary

"Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:" - The speaker addresses the poet John Milton, expressing a wish for his presence in the contemporary world.

"England hath need of thee: she is a fen" - The speaker suggests that England is in a state of stagnation or decay, comparing it to a marshland ("fen").

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"Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen," - The traditional sources of power and influence in England the church , military, and literature are seen as stagnant or ineffective.

"Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower," - Even the domestic sphere, symbolized by the "fireside," and the grandeur of noble residences, have lost their former glory and vitality.


"Have forfeited their ancient English dower" - These aspects of English life have lost their inherent qualities or endowments that once brought happiness and fulfillment.

"Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;" - The speaker criticizes the selfishness and moral decline of the people in England.

"Oh! raise us up, return to us again;" - The speaker implores Milton to return and uplift the nation, suggesting that his presence and influence could bring about positive change.

"And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power." - The speaker desires a restoration of virtues such as good manners, moral integrity, freedom, and strength.

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"Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:" - The speaker praises Milton's noble character, comparing his soul to a distant star that shines uniquely and independently.


"Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:" - Milton's voice, likely referring to his writings, is compared to the vast and powerful sound of the sea, suggesting its profound impact and resonance.

"Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free," - Milton's character and writings are described as pure, majestic, and free, akin to the unadorned beauty of the heavens.

"So didst thou travel on life's common way," - Despite his greatness, Milton lived an ordinary life, navigating the trials and tribulations of existence like everyone else.

"In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart" - Milton lived with cheerful piety and devotion to God, yet...

"The lowliest duties on herself did lay." - ...he willingly undertook even the humblest tasks and responsibilities, showing his humility and commitment to duty.

London, 1802 Poem Themes

National Revival: The poem reflects on the need for England's revitalization, expressing a desire for the return of a figure like John Milton to inspire positive change and restore important values such as manners, virtue, freedom, and power.

Social Critique: Wordsworth criticizes the moral decline and self-centeredness prevalent in English society of his time. He mourns the loss of traditional virtues and suggests that England has become stagnant and devoid of inner happiness.

Respect for Literary Heritage: By evoking John Milton, a prominent literary figure, the poem underscores the significance of literature and tradition in shaping national identity and values. It emphasizes the importance of drawing wisdom and inspiration from past achievements to guide the present.

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Humility and Responsibility: The poem praises Milton for his cheerful devotion and willingness to perform even the most humble duties. It highlights the importance of humility, piety, and a sense of duty in leading a virtuous life and contributing to the common good.

Nature and Ethics: Although not explicitly stated, the poem's critique of societal decay can be interpreted as a reflection of Wordsworth's broader concern about the consequences of industrialization and urbanization on the natural and moral order. It suggests a longing for a return to a more harmonious relationship with nature and a simpler, morally upright way of living.


London, 1802 by William Wordsworth concludes with a poignant plea for the return of virtues and values embodied by the revered poet John Milton. This conclusion encapsulates the poem's central themes of societal regeneration, reverence for tradition, and the importance of moral integrity. By invoking Milton's memory and character, Wordsworth underscores the timeless significance of literature and morality in shaping societal ideals and fostering a sense of national pride.


1. Who was John Milton and why does Wordsworth invoke him in the poem?

John Milton was a renowned English poet and writer, best known for his epic poem "Paradise Lost." Wordsworth invokes Milton in "London, 1802" as a symbol of moral and intellectual excellence, and as a representation of the values and virtues that Wordsworth believes England has lost.

2. What is the significance of the title "London, 1802"?

The title "London, 1802" indicates both the setting and the time period of the poem. It suggests that the poem addresses the state of London, and by extension, England, during the year 1802.

3. What themes are explored in "London, 1802"?

"London, 1802" explores themes such as societal decline, the loss of moral and spiritual values, the need for societal renewal, and the importance of literary and cultural heritage.

4. How does Wordsworth criticize society in "London, 1802"?

Wordsworth criticizes society in "London, 1802" by lamenting the loss of traditional virtues and values, and by expressing discontent with the moral and intellectual state of England during his time. He suggests that England has become spiritually and intellectually stagnant, and calls for a return to the ideals embodied by figures like John Milton.



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