I wander through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.
How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.
But most through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.
The narrator of this poem is a wanderer through the streets of London, observing the depressive state of the people.
The general message from this poem is about the grotesque setting of the lives of those in London. All of the people Blake meets are sad, weak, and dismal (L4). The second stanza details the mental handcuffs everyone created for themselves through their pain. The "manacles" (cuffs or shackles) it says are "mind-forged", or figuratively present (L8). More specifically, the fear and cries of adults as well as children are inflicting stress and worry on everyone's mind and body, causing almost a feeling of capture.
London itself at this time was in a disgusting state. Around this time the city was in an Industrial Revolution with no regulations on emitions, cleanliness, or sanitation. Because of the industrail boom, the black smoke saturated everything from the air, to clothes, to buildings and walls - even the "[appalling] church" (L10). Also around this time, prostitution was a large scene for many young women. Blake uses this to entail ruined marraiges (L14, 16).
Blake's use of setting is very key in describing late 18th century London. The Thames River (L2) gives a specific location, which would be in southern England, and the referance to the (many) chimney swepers and black filth at this time (1794) link directly to an Industrial Revolution. Along with two couplets in each stanza, there is also some repitition (and also, anaphora) in the poem. "...Mark in every face I meet, marks of weakness, marks of woe..." (L3-4) strengthens the pain wrought on everyone's faces. Also, "In every cry... in every infant's cry... in every voice, in every ban..." (L5-7) solidifies the view that such agony is everywhere throughout the city, on everyone's mind and in everyone's heart.