The basic theme of "London" is that the city is bleak and depressing. Words like "hapless," "weakness," "woe," and "manacles" add to the melancholy. Even phrases like "Every Black Church" and "Through the Midnight Streets" plainly reflect a dismal atmosphere.
King Henry VIII is mentioned several times in the poem. On November 4, 1553, he married his third wife, Catherine Howard. She was only fifteen years old at the time. Her father, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was executed on this date for treason against Queen Catherine's brother, Emperor Charles V. The poet probably has Henry VIII's marriage policy discussed because it was such a controversial topic at the time. Also, the poet may be hinting at how England became involved in the European wars of religion.
The poem also mentions St. Paul's Cathedral in London. This famous church was built between 1245 and 1517. It is the largest cathedral in Europe by volume of material used to build it. The poet might be including this landmark in order to impress his audience since it had never been seen before by many people.
Finally, the last line of the poem says that "through the midnight streets / The bell to lassitude consents." In other words, the church bell announces that it is time for people to go home after a long day of work or school.
In general, the phrase "London" suggests that this poem is a kind of travelogue, a description of a location. That is precisely what it is, but it is a very restricted, or "chartered," as the poet puts it, perspective. The view from London was at least partially controlled by its city fathers, who passed laws regulating trade and behavior. These included restrictions on foreign food, which helped make English cuisine distinctive; the need for clean water; and the prevention of public disorder such as street riots.
In addition to being descriptive, the poem also implies that London was the center of the world at that time. It played an important role in the exchange of information, goods, and ideas between England and its colonies. At the end of the 17th century, more than half of all ships sailing between Europe and America were British!
Finally, the word "London" has other meanings too. It can be used as a proper name, as in "The London Review" or "The London Times." Or it may refer to one of the many corporations that have control over parts of the city's economy, such as the London Bridge Company or the London Docks Company.
In short, the title "London" means different things to different people. But they can all agree that this poem describes a lot of stuff going on in and around the city at the time it was written.
"London" is clearly identified as a Romantic poetry due to its emphasis on the common man and children, individual human rights, and emotions. Our initial impression of "London" is that it is neither "Romantic," that is, pastoral, in one with nature, or spiritual. Rather, it is medieval and industrial at the same time.
The first thing that strikes us when we read about London in poems by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats is their vivid portrayal of the city's life and activity. They capture the mood of the city at that time by showing it to be bustling with people, work, and traffic. This is different from what we expect from a poem that focuses on nature or spirituality.
Furthermore, these poems present London as it is not: it is full of action, humanity, and industry. There are no deserted streets or alleys in these poems; instead they show us shopping areas, public squares, and workshops. We also learn that London was not only a place of business and commerce but also a venue for entertainment (e.'tertainments'). This is something we do not associate with medieval England since there were no theaters or music concerts back then.
Last but not least, these poems make London sound like a safe and secure place to live. There are no wars or violence described in them so we can assume that everything goes well for the common man.