Study Guide

London, 1802 Quotes

  • Patriotism

    altar, sword, and pen,
    Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower
    Have forfeited their ancient English dower
    Of inward happiness. (3-6)

    England, Wordsworth reminds us, used to have a lot to be proud of – but now its people have lost touch with these great things, and are unhappy as a consequence. Wordsworth hopes that the people of England can reclaim their rightful "dower" of pride and satisfaction in their country.

  • Admiration

    Milton! Thou should'st be living at this hour:
    England hath need of thee (1-2)

    This appeal to Milton is the first thing we see in the poem – Wordsworth's desperate plea to his fellow poet shows his great respect for him, and implies furthermore that the whole country is in need of him.

    Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart (9)

    This astronomical comparison demonstrates Wordsworth's great admiration for Milton – he calls the other poet literally out of this world.

  • Morality and Ethics

    England hath need of thee: she is a fen
    Of stagnant waters (1-2)

    This is pretty clear: any comparison to a swampland full of fetid, gross water is never a good thing. England is in a foul state of moral corruption, according to Wordsworth.

    We are selfish men;
    Oh! Raise us up, return to us again;
    And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. (6-8)

    Hmm…very interesting. The fact that Wordsworth lumps "manners, virtue, freedom, and power" together indicates the relationship between morality and success – a healthy nation achieves things like "freedom and power" through being kind and virtuous.

    Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart (9)

    …dwelt apart in a better place, that is. Milton's moral superiority set him apart from the rest of the flawed mass of humanity.

    So didst thou travel on life's common way,
    In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
    The lowliest duties on herself did lay. (12-14)

    First of all, Milton was a humble guy. He didn't get all up on himself about being an amazing poet or a better-than-average human – no, instead, he chose to live like the rest of us (only better). Furthermore, he took the most humble duties upon himself, and didn't ask for any special treatment.

  • Tradition and Customs

    altar, sword, and pen,
    Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower
    Have forfeited their ancient English dower
    Of inward happiness. (3-6)

    Wordsworth had a whole laundry list of things at which England once excelled, but now has apparently forgotten – here, he reminds readers of what they should be focusing on to find "inner happiness."

  • Literature and Writing

    altar, sword, and pen,
    Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower
    Have forfeited their ancient English dower
    Of inward happiness. (3-6)

    "Pen" here stands in for literature on the whole – Wordsworth puts literature up there as one of England's great traditions, along with things as important as religion and military might.

    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free (10-11)

    Here, Wordsworth means Milton's poetic voice. The wild, natural imagery of these lines emphasize the tremendous power and vast scope of Milton's work.