London Questions and Answers Marks 5

London Questions and Answers Marks 5

 

1. Write a short note on the title of Johnson’s poem ‘London, justifying its aptness.

 

The poem ‘London’ by Samuel Johnson was produced shortly after he had moved to and settled in London, the capital city of England, in 1738. This poem of 263 lines was his first major poetical work. The poem is imitated after Juvenal’s Third Satire, as the imitation of the classical poets was the common practice of the Neoclassical poets of Johnson’s time.

 

The title of the poem, as given at the time of its first publication, is

London : A Poem.

 

In Imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal is clearly explicit in the title London, a poem, written in imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal. The explanation or justification of the title is quite simple at least from two angles. The first is that this is a poem. Second, this is written following the pattern of the Classical Roman Poet Juvenal’s Third Satire. But the most important question is the use of the name ‘London’. It is to be found out how far the use of the name ‘London’ as the title head is justifiable or appropriate.

 

Johnson’s poem ‘London’describes, without any doubt, the various problems of London, including the prevalence of crime, corruption and squalor there. Through the out-spoken address of the poet’s friend Thales, the city of London is found exposed as a place where nothing but crimes and evils dominate in all the spheres — social, political and moral.

Even the abstract nouns are found here personified to emphasise different kinds of evils that rule, dominate and mark life in London. In this respect, Malice, Rapine and Accident are to be particularly emphasised.

 

But in his representation of London’ the poet also refers to the political evils and crimes committed freely here. As the capital city, London is the centre of political activities, with the king and parliament sit and rule from here. The poet does not spare the vices freely committed by the politicians and the lapses in duties of the ministers and political heads, including the king himself. The poet is here unsparing to expose all the foul games played to earn money and power, taking advantage of the high positions in the city of London.

 

Many more things may be said about faults and wrongs found in galore in the city of London when Johnson actually wrote the poem. The title of the poem on London, therefore, seems most appropriate and arresting.

 

2. Comment precisely and illustratively on the theme of the poem ‘London’.

 

Or,

 

Write a brief note on the theme of the poem ‘London’. Illustrate your note.

 

Johnson’s ‘London’is not merely a poem on a big city, London – of its site, size, natural beauty and population. It is something much more. It is rather the criticism of the city—its evils and with administration leading to the grow of evils here. As observed by J. P. Hardy, ‘As a poem on the evils of the city life, London exploits a familiar theme. Early mention is made of the fire, falling houses, fell attorneys and female atheists that were to be met with in the eighteenth century capital. Indeed, as a poem on the evils of city-life, a quite familiar theme is exploited by the poet here from the very early part of the poem. Through the account of the departure of his friend Thales almost, probably imaginary, the poet quite presents catergorically evils prevalent in London.

 

 

The theme of the poem is indicated in the vices and wrongs frequently occuring in London, but this is not all of the theme. The poem also satirizes the measures taken by the government and the result therefrom. The vile corruption that the Government seems to have fostered are well emphasized. Actually as Boswell observes, the composition of the poem coincided with that ferment against the court and ministry which some years afterward, ended in the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole.

 

The poem is also found to explore the wrongs done in the domestic affair in the governmental policy of the excise duties, the stage licensing Act and political pensions. Of such evils, as fears by the poet, the last one is found to encourage sycophancy.

 

The poem does not spare the government’s policy. The poet continues his theme by asserting the dregs of each corrupted stage had become the cheated nation’s happy favourites. Corruption and criminal action appears to go hand in hand in London in the representation of the city by the poet in his ‘Zondort.

 

3. Critically discuss Johnson’s imitation of Juvenal in ‘London.

 

 

The trend to follow the classical poets of eminence, as the models of poetic style and subject-matter was found to predominate the neoclassical English poets of the century. Such masters as Virgil, Horace, Juvenal and others influenced the students as well scholars of the time. Dr. Johnson himself tried the verse translation of Virgil and Horace just as Dryden translated Juvenal’s Third Satire as a schoolboy. That method of translating foreign masters however was found somewhat difficult and improper to the English readers. As a result, the classical masters tried to be imitative rather than to translate. The poet John Denham stated categorically, ‘If Virgil must need speak English, it were fit he should speak not only as a man of this nation, but as a man of this age.’ John Oldham agreed using English names in his translations.

 

Johnson’s poem ‘London’is a part of the 18th century genre of imitation, or what might be called Neoclassicalism. The work was an imitation of Juvenal’s ‘Third Satire which describes Umbricius, leaving Rome to live in Cumae in order to escape from the vices and dangers of the capital city. In Johnson’s version, it is Thales who decided to travel to Cambria to escape from the problems of London. Johnson chose Juvenal as a model based on his own appreciation for Juvenal’s works.

 

The epigraph from Juvenal is also translated as ‘who is so patient of the wicked city so iron-willed as to contain himself. An imitation of classical masters actually follows the structure and the patterns of the thought of the original but makes the current for the age for the easy intelligibility of the readers concerned. In his poem London. Johnson follows the same process. He transforms Juvenal’s Rome by London and substitutes his master’s, Greeks by the French. Of course, alike Juvenal, Johnson is critical only of the Londoners and not of the Romans of Juvenal. Of course, Juvenal is more elaborate in his satirical design than Johnson and naturally the latter’s poems of 263 lines is considerably shorter than Juvenal’s of 323 lines.

 

Moreover, some materials taken and described by the Latin poet are not suitable for Johnson’s work. A good many descriptions of Juvenal are not applicable to London of Johnson’s time. As a matter of fact, Johnson is found to select what suits his purpose and ignores what is not applicable or unsuitable for his poem.

 

Nevertheless, Johnson is found to be as loyal to his master Juvenal in his poetic style though unable to adopt his subject-matter in full.

 

4. Who seems to be the narrator of the subject-matter of the poem ‘London? Discuss with adequate references on “Is the poet himself the narrator or his imaginary friend Thales?” Answer with appropriate references.

 

 

The nature of Johnson’s poem, London is about the various problems and evils of London including the adequate emphases on crime, corruption, squalor of the city as also riches and poverty. Such a poem generally is found to be reflective. But the present poem is narrative. The poem narrates the evils, miseries and views dominating the city. A question, however, is quite intesting, that is about the narrator. Is the poet himself the narrator or is this his friend, imaginary no doubt, Thales?

 

The very text clearly supplies the answer to the question. In this respect, it is to be noted that Johnson himself starts his poem as the first person narrator, but afterwards, he keeps himself to silence and his friend Thales, whose identifty is not made all clear, begins to narrate. Actually Thales is the speaker for the bulk of the poem. After briefly stating the setting of the scene of Thales’s departure, the poet, as the first person narrator, retires to silence and allows Thales to speak and remark with his function to report the same to the reader. Though there are some doubts about the actual identity of Thales, his prominence in narrating the ills, both social and political of London is undeniable. He is representated, of course as a friend, and sympathises as Johnson was too savage a poet closely acquaints with him.

 

That the narrator is not Johnson, but Thales can be made clear from the actual text of the poem. Excepting the first three stanzes of the poem where Johnson speaks of his grief and fondness for the departure of his friend Thales to Wales, the rest of the poem contains the narration of Thales.

It is all clear that the bulk of the narration, given about the state of London, belongs to Thales and not to the poet Johnson who turns himself to a reporter of the narrator’s comment and criticism.

 

5. Discuss illustratively an assessment of citylife (as London) and countryside around : Degeneration in the city of London and the charm of the countryside.

 

Johnsons ‘London’, written in imitation of Juvenals Third of the city of London and the administrators who ruled the city. The poem actually is a presentation of various problems that beset London and made an honest and virtuous living impossible here. In the very beginning of his poem, the poet presents the departure of his friend Thales in order to escape from the vices and dangers of the capital city to transfer his residence to the quiet, pretty bosom of Cambria (Wales). In fact, the poem describes numerous vicious happenings in the city, including the acts of criminality, stamped, corruption and unbearable squalor.

 

The distinction between the crowded and crime-ridden London and the calm, pure and lovely countryside of Wales is distinctly emphasised in this extract. Actually the poet’s emphasis is on the evils of London where life, unknown to serenity and security, where malice, rapine and accident conspire to make the very existence difficult and awesome and crime-haunted. London, is the capital city, dominated by certain human groups not at all honest and scrupulous, possessing and exerting power and authority over all. The poet reports through his friend Thales conspiring observations how London is an ideal haunt of degeneration-social, political and moral. In this connection, in support of his decision to leave London to settle in a quiet and gentle countryside, he explores pointedly how rough and rotten is the place he is quitting in disgust and wrath .

 

But this is not all of the speaker’s contention. He does not hide his political agenda after speaking of the general degeneration of London life. In this matter, he is not less unsparing, not less outspoken and less categorical. The speaker looks upon the city of London as a victim of erroneous (39197) administration. He attacks straight the political party Whig, led by Robert Walpole as also the King (George II). Through the speaker, Johnson compares the decision and functions of George II and Walpole as also the speaker, Johnson compares the decisions and functions of George II and Walpole those of the Roman Emperors during the time of decline of the Roman Emperor of course. The attacks through his speaker is not always direct, particularly in the matter of the royal power. Though he does not deter to be sternly satirical of Walpole and his supporters whose wrong policies and practices bath at home and at outside are liable to lead the country to rain. Not until the end of the poem does the narrator directly address and chastise the Goverment unequivoally :

 

 

To keep away from such a depreciating state, the speaker prefers the countryside to the city. Johnson’s dislike for the degraded citylife may seem to lead to the pastoral bias of the poem. Of course, the poet’s such a bias is doubtful, but his approach and preference to the countrylife is undeniable in the poem.

 

The poet brings his speaker of the poem Thales once more to the lime-light in the latter’s appreciation of the countryside and preference to stay out of London to some quiet countryside. He decries London in outspoken words in support of this stand.

 

 

It is clear that Johnson’s love for natural scene is indisputable, at least in earlier works. The poet here is frankly open in his appreciation of the bright and cheerful colours of nature. He seems to envisage, too, the country as a picturesque place where a man of taste is capable of enjoying aesthetic pleasure as well as natural quietude for his pleasant repose.

 

Thus, it is clear that the poem ‘London presents the poet’s preference of the countryside to the life in cities full of hurdles and turmoils.

 

6. Discuss Dr. Johnson’s ‘London’as a political satire. Illustrate your answer.

Or

 

What is a political satire? Comment on ‘London’as a political satire. Write precisely and illustratively.

 

The Satire, in general, means a composition, in verse or prose, the function of which is to expose the vices or follies of some person or persons for the purpose of ridiculing or bantering him, her, or them. But strictly speaking, “the satire is a poem, aiming at the expose of the prevalent vices or follies of an individual society or community, or a section of such a society or community.

 

A political satire, however, means a satire which has the main agenda to disclose and despise wrongs and crimes in high places of politics. Such a satire is also intended for exposing what is vicious and foolish in political affairs as also in the very activities and follies of the persons occupying high position in politics, committing administrative error in different spheres.

 

Dr. Johnson’s ‘London’is not merely on the city of London with its population and activities in diverse matters-social, moral and political. The poet’s arena is here vast and quite comprehensive.

 

The poet’s friend Thales who is mainly the narrator in the poem London. He has openly preferred to live in the countryside of Wales and leave London for its manifold Catalpa) deficiencies and degenerations. The narrator does not lack his reason to show why he prefers to leave the city and live in the countryside of Wales. Indeed, ‘Zondon’exploits a familiar theme. It is a poem on the evil of citylife, as noted in the mention made in the beginning of the falling houses, fell attorney’s for preys and so on. These are the topical details narrated by the poet through his friend Thales. London is a topical poem in the sense that it satirizes the measures of the government as also the corruption errupted from the administration of the men in power. The compositon of the poem is found to coincide, as stated by Boswell with ‘that ferment against the court and ministry whichsome years afterwards ended in the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole’ . The political agenda in the poem comprises a clear and strong criticism of the ministry lead by Walpole and even the king is not spared, although attack is not made directly on him till the end.

 

In the domestic sphere, the poem attacks certain measures taken by the government in the matter of the excise duty, the stage Licensing Act and political pension. Such wrong steps are severely treated by the poet particularly the last step mentioned.

The comment here is sharp and scathing revealing the glaring errors in administration. The poem is not liberal in the aggresion on Walpole’s foreign policy. The narrator is quite frank in his observation that such a foreign policy has equally dangerous consequence of a servile attitude towards Britain’s traditional rivals, France and Spain. In a way that may seem exaggerated but effectively critical, the narrator links the corruption of the whole city with the current political scenario. Such a policy opens the gate of aggresion or invasion by some foreign power. The narrator asserts that already “the drugs of each corrupted nation have become the cheated nation’s happy Favourite”. The weakness of the Government is the cause of the prevailing corruption in the city. All through the poem the reprehensible measures of the administration and the moral and physical degeneracy of the nation are significantly juxtaposed.

A satire, even if it is a political one, has a didactic lesson. The lesson here is of the rejuvenation of the whole land by replacing degenerated creatures by men of worth and honesty, prefering virtous simplicity to corrupting luxury, cultivating sturdy independence instead of a sycophantic and charging moral looseness to new vitality and beauty.

 

7. The Present Degeneration and the Past Tradition [Q. Dr. Johnson’s poem ‘London, presents vis-a-vis ‘present degeneration and the past tradition’. Discuss, precisely and critically, with textual illustrations.

 

Or,

 

Bring out, precisely and illustratively, how Dr. Johnson, in his poem ‘London’, presents both the present degeneration and the past tradition of the great city.

 

See Title (Item 1) (Omit Para 2 and the last para.).

 

(Then add) Johnson’s London is no ignorable poem, but rather a prominent one. Indeed, what is pre-eminent here is a social satire, exposing with disgust, the inequalities, the follies of and the rottenness of citylife, becomes in the poet’s craftsmanship, largely a political satire. His antipathy to Walpole and the regime of his corrupt and incompetent rule is given a free scope in the allusion to excise discrepancies. The tyranny of the licensing and the servitude of a thoughtless age.

Degeneration is shown as compressive on all fronts and proves reducive spirit and energy, initiative and vitality.

 

 

But such a degenerated state should not continue for long. Darkness and despair of the existing situation must be dispelled as early as possible . But to awaken a land from a slavish slumber, some positive model or inspring ideal is to be kept in view. The inactive nation is to be enlivened with the instances from the glorious past. Since the whole land as in the need of a quick rejuvenation from the deep degeneration all around created by the hiring senators or the venal lords, what is needed is the recall of the glorous past of which every Britain must be truly proud.

 

So the poet has resort to the presentation of the glorious phases of the British history.

 

To the age almost lost to servility to Spain, the past history of the English navy as a terror to Spain may well be mentioned.

 

The next instance mentioned, as a venerable memory of Britain’s grand past, is the reign of king Alfred.

 

Two further illustrations are the heroic feats of Edward III and Henry I. During Edward’s time England won famous victories over France, such as the battle of Crecy in 1346. Henry V, in his very young age, gained great victories over France and won the Battle of Agimcourt in 1415.

 

Such great ages glitter in golden letters in British history. Degenerations need be supplanted by the rejurvenation of new vilality, spirit and vision to come out of the dreary present to an ideal state in London of surly virtue and ‘pleasing dream’ .

 

8. Attempt an estimate of the poem ‘London’by Dr. Johnson, precisely and illustratively.

 

Or,

 

Attempt a commentary on the theme and the techniques of the poem ‘London’ with adequate examples.

 

The poem ‘London’ was first published in May, 1738 anonymously. That was a hard time for Johnson, much oppressed by poverty and with a family burden. He had then just settled in London, writing loosely for different concerns. But the poem, though anonymously written, proved a great success and went into a second edition within that very year. The popularity of the work was for the subject chosen by him. The poem provided quite wide circle of readers for the subject selected was much to their taste and liking. The subsequent editions of the work were no more published anonymously, but in Johnson’s own name. London remains one of this longest nondramatic poetical work. Though the work was not originally meant as a general satire, it proved to be immensely popular as a political satire revelling the errors and the evils of the ruling power of England with its seat in London. The work demonstrated enough Johnson’s skill as a poetical writter and paved the way to further his literary career.

 

The poem ‘London’ was written in the imitation of the Roman poet Juvenal’s ‘Third Satire’. Johnson here followed the 18th century genre of imitation of the neoclassical Roman masters. Juvenal’s Third Satire describes Umbricius’ leaving Rome to live in Cumae in order to escape from the vices and dangers of the capital city, Rome. In Johnson’s version, it is Thales who travels to Cambria (Wales) to escape from problems in London. Johnson chose Juvenal as a model based on his own appreciation for Juvenal’s works. The epigraph from Juvenal, ‘Quis ineptae [iniquac]. Tam patient urbis, tam ferreus ut teneat se’ (Juvenal) can be translated as ‘Who is so patient of the foolish (wicked) city, so iron-willed, as to contain himself.’ Whatever may be said to the contrary, the poem London is distinctly a satire that the dominance of follies and crimes in the capital city under the rule

 

serves to expose of the Whigs, led by Walpole.

 

The poem describes the various problems of London, including crime, corruption, and the squalor of the poor. To emphasise his message, these various abstract problems are personified as living beings that seek to destroy London. Thus, the characters of Malice, Rapine, and Accident ‘conspire’ to attack those who live in London.

But Johnson’s poem is not merely a social satire. It is a political satire in which he sharply strikes the Whig politicians in power. He does not spare the Government under Walpole and King George II whose policies are denounced as corrupt and humiliating the entire nation with dire consequences.

 

Indeed, what is pre-emnently a social satire, expressing disgust with the inequalities, the follies and the wrongs of citylife, becomes in Johnson’s hand, largely a political satire. His antipathy to Walpole’s administrative is given free scope to increase the excise to the abuse of pensions, the tyranny of the licensing laws and the servitude of a thoughtless age.

 

 

Not merely the enjoyable satiric theme but also the endearing technique of the poet win for the poem much popularity and fame.

 

Johnson’s technique of versification is no less commendable. Rarely can the heroic couplet have sounded quite so assertive. The balance, native to all heroic couplets, will always give an impression, however spurious—of judiciousness.

 

9. Discuss Johnson’s London as a critique of England’s mercantle expansion and excise policy of his time.

 

While speaking of the glory of queen Elizabeth’s reign, Johnson’s London refers to the policy of commerce and excise, followed by the queen, and presents, as a comparison, that of the government of Walpole. In this connection the following lines are worth citing :

 

‘Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main, The guard of commerce, and the Dread of Spain, Ere Masquerades debauch’d Excise oppress’d Or English Honour grew a standing Jest.’

 

Johnson’s poem does not fully explore the policy followed by the government of Walpole in regard to commerce and the excise. Only a difference between the Elizabethan era and the present is shown. In earlier times, the English navy was enough strong and almost a terror to Spain. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 remains, memorable event in the English history. Johnson intends to present a contrast between the Elizabethan policy and Walpole’s. The latter’s policy was to avoid confrontation with Spain for which his opposition was sharply critical. The treaty which ended the war of Spanish succession in 1713 had given Britain the right to import a number of slaves from Africa into America without any restriction. But due to Walpole’s weak stand, that could not be possible. Spain resisted that right to Britain as it went against their own interest. Spain claimed the right to control the Caribbean seas and search British ships. In 1738, when Johnson’s poem was just written, there was a report of the similar resistance to twelve British ships in those seas. That led to the incident of the cutting off the ear of Jenkins, a captain of a British ship. That matter caused a great turmoil in parliament and there was a clamour for war against Spain. The free and liberal policy of Walpole in regard to Spain was a matter of high criticism. Naturally, the commercial interest of England was much hampered and English Honour was much belittled.

 

In this connection, the poem has also treated the excise, a tax, payable on the sale of certain commodities such as tea and tobacco. Walpole introduced a bill, increasing the excise. That proved to be unpopular enough and protests against it were loud and continuous. That protest against the bill, infact, was not introduced to build up the fund of the state but to harass honest traders by a band of wretches.

 

10.  Precisely comment on Johnson’s opinions on Walpole and his policy and illustrate with reference to the poem London.

 

Or,

 

How far Johnson’s poem London is a political manifesto against the Whig leader Walpole.]

 

In 1737, Johnson left his parental home and set off for London with his ex-pupil, Garrick and settled there with little means to provide himself. He had a hard living amid pressing poverty and want. He somehow secured an employment in the Gentleman’s Magazine where he wrote on minor items to earn his bare living. As his situation slightly improved he decided to settle finally in the capital city and brought his family there. It was at that very time, that he wrote the poem ‘London’which was published first anonymously in May, 1738. He earned £10 for the work. As the poem was a sharp criticism of the then ruling party (the Whig party), Johnson preferred to remain unnamed. But his poem proved immensely successful, with a large number of audience. They read and enjoyed what they wanted to hear and personally feltNaturally, the poem very rapidly ran into several editions and in Johnson’s own name.

 

The poem ‘London’indeed established him as a popular literary figure of that age of unrest and discontent. The poem was written in the form of an imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal. The contents of the poem present much of the social and political matter of the time, under the hegemony (#21012 qot) of John Walpole, the first member or leader of the Whig ministry. ‘London’ , written by Pope, is an intensely political poem, containing matters of topical interest , making references to many current matters like the Licensing Act and the change of the foreign war policy, ‘London’ reflects the then very mood of the people that was anti-Walpole and critical even of the king George II.

 

The poem mentions some of the glaring limitations of the government, run under the leadership of Walpole, including the liberal policy with Spain and some home policies of wrong taxation and measures.

 

This is not all. Walpole is also accused, not without any reason, of having corrupted public life by putting members of parliament on the government payroll, through the award of pensions to those members belonging to the Whig party or supporting it. The poet also finds fault with the commercial policy of Walpole by referring to his increase of the excise, a tax payable on the sell of certain commodities such as tea, tobacco and so on and attempt to introduce the licensing Act of 1737 that proposed to force, all sorts of entertainments to apply for a licence from the Lord Chamberlain, fourteen days before the performance. That act was intended for silencing any sort of dramatic or literary propaganda against Walpole’s government.

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