Stanza 1 of "London" by William Blake is as follows:

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

I am curious about the usage of the word "mark" in this context. The word clearly has a double meaning, as it is used by Blake as both a verb and a noun. While I acknowledge that in line 4, "mark" most likely means "stain", I had a different interpretation. Could "mark" be used as a name, so that Blake would be referring to Marks with weakness and woe? As a common name, it could help reinforce the widespread suffering the poem is about.

  • 3
    Was Mark a common name in Blake's time as well? (I think of it as being a fairly modern name, but then it is biblical, so maybe not.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 15:13

2 Answers 2


This sense of mark (to take note of) is found here¹:

  1. Notice or pay careful attention to.
    ‘he'll leave you, you mark my words!’

It doesn’t look like it’s intended to refer to a name, just a simple word play (you could just about get away with using spot instead, since that also has meanings which include notice and stain).

¹ Oxford Living Dictionaries


I doubt Blake meant to refer to the name. If you want to look for other meanings of "mark" than the two literal ones apparent in the antanaclasis, though, it's worth considering masons' marks and Mark Masonry, recalling that freemasonic lodges are established by charter.

  • 1
    The downvoter dislikes speculation about semantic fields and multiple references in poetry? I take it he or she downvoted the question too?
    – user8097
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 19:49

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