Johnson's first major poem, an imitation of Juvenal's third Satire, appeared in 1738, shortly after his arrival in the city. (His most famous poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes, is an imitation of Juvenal's tenth Satire, and he claimed to have composed imitations of all of Juvenal's works, though only these two were written down.) Although London comes off badly in the poem, Johnson loved the city, and famously said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford."
Tho' Grief and Fondness in my Breast rebel,
For who would leave, unbrib'd,
While Thales waits the
A transient Calm the happy Scenes
Since Worth, he cries, 11 in these
degen'rate Days, 
Let such raise Palaces, and Manors buy,
Heroes, proceed! What Bounds your Pride shall hold?
To such, a groaning Nation's Spoils are
Others with softer Smiles, and subtler
For what but social Guilt the Friend
The cheated Nation's happy Fav'rites, see!
Illustrious Edward! 25 from the
Realms of Day,
All that at home no more can beg or steal,
Ah! what avails it, that, from Slav'ry far,
Studious to please, and ready to submit,
Besides, with Justice, this discerning Age
How, when Competitors like these contend,
For Arts like these preferr'd, admir'd, carest,
Has Heaven reserv'd, in Pity to the Poor,
But hark! th' affrighted Crowd's tumultuous Cries
Should Heaven's just Bolts
Orgilio's Wealth confound, 34
Could'st thou resign the Park and Play content, 
Prepare for Death, if here at Night you roam,
In vain, these Dangers past, your Doors you close,
Scarce can our Fields, such Crowds at
A single Jail, in
Alfred's golden Reign, 45
Much could I add,—but see the Boat at hand,
1. From Juvenal's first Satire: "Who can be so tolerant of this awful city, who has such a soul of iron?"
2. Thales is pronounced as two syllables, Tháy-leez. There has been much dispute over whether Thales represents Johnson's friend, Richard Savage, who left London for Wales. Despite the close match with the character in the poem, all the evidence suggests that Johnson did not meet Savage until after the poem was written.
3. Cambria is Wales, and St. David is the country's patron saint.
4. Hibernia is Ireland; the Strand is a street in London.
5. Fell, "ravenous." Johnson quotes this line in his Dictionary, and attributes it to "Anon."
6. Wherry, "A light boat used on rivers" (Johnson).
7. Greenwich is a town a few miles to the east of London, and the site of the Royal Observatory. Johnson was living in Greenwich when he wrote the poem.
8. Queen Elizabeth was born in Greenwich.
9. Queen Elizabeth ruled England when the English forces defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. In 1738, when London was written, many people (including Johnson) were agitating for war with Spain, and often invoked Elizabeth's precedent.
10. Johnson's definition of excise almost got him into serious legal trouble: "A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by the common judges of property, but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid."
11. The rest of the poem is spoken by Thales.
12. Wants, "lacks."
13. Science was any variety of learning, not just what we think of as the sciences today.
14. Verdant means green; an osier is a willow tree or a reed.
15. A reference to the Anglo-Saxon and Danish invasions.
16. Probably a reference to King George II.
17. Johnson's definition of pension was notorious: "An allowance made to any one without an equivalent. In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to his country." It came back to haunt him when he was awarded a government pension in 1762.
18. Johnson's note: "The invasions of the Spaniards were defended in the houses of Parliament." The British government was allowing the Spanish to search British ships in America.
19. Johnson quotes this line in his Dictionary under truth, and attributes it to "Anonymous."
20. Johnson's note: "The licensing act was then lately made." The "warbling Eunuchs" are the castrati, castated men, who sang the highest parts in opera. The "licens'd Stage" refers to the Stage Licensing Act of 1737, which required that all stage plays be subjected to government censorship before they could be presented.
21. Johnson's note: "The paper which at that time contained apologies [defenses] for the Court." The Daily Gazetteer was a government newspaper.
22. Probably John "Orator" Henley, a member of parliament and a supporter of the government, notorious for his crude jokes. Others have suggested Lord Hervey.
23. The Duke of Marlborough was a military hero who grew extremely wealthy from the war on France: as Johnson wrote later, "The war was unnecessarily protracted to fill the pockets of Marlborough, and . . . it would have been continued without end if he could have continued his annual plunder." George Villiers, 2d Duke of Buckingham, squandered a huge fortune and died poor.
24. A common shore is a sewer.
25. Edward III, who defeated the French at Crécy in 1346.
26. Beau, "A man of dress; a man whose great care is to deck his person" (Johnson).
27. Gibbet, "A gallows; the post on which malefactors are hanged, or on which their carcases are exposed" (Johnson). The gibbet was the usual English means of execution; the wheel was used for executions in France.
28. Obsequious means "servile" or "fawning."
29. Lisp means to speak like a child. Henry is Henry V, whose victories over the French at Agincourt in 1415 are celebrated in Shakespeare's play.
30. A Gaul is a Frenchman; Johnson defines parasite as "One that frequents rich tables, and earns his welcome by flattery."
31. The dog-days are in late August, when Sirius, the dog-star, is visible.
32. Balbo is Latin for "stammerer." It may not refer to any particular person.
33. Johnson's note: "The Spaniards at this time were said to make claim to some of our American proviences." The English often criticized the Spanish for their colonization of the New World. Desart means any unoccupied ("deserted") area, not just arid, sandy wastelands.
34. Johnson's note: "This was by Hitch a Bookseller justly remarked to be no picture of modern manners, though it might be true at Rome." Charles Hitch was one of the publishers of Johnson's Dictionary in 1755.
35. A vassal is a subordinate or dependent, a term from feudalism. A dome is a building, from Latin domus.
36. Pile, "An edifice; a building" (Johnson).
37. The Severn is a river that runs through Wales and the southwest of England; the Trent is in the north of England near Scotland.
38. In the eighteenth century, smile and toil rhymed.
39. A broil is a fight or confrontation.
40. Johnson quotes this line in his Dictionary under terrour, attributing it to "Anonym."
41. Flambeau, "A lighted torch" (Johnson).
42. Tyburn was the site of public hangings in the eighteenth century. Hemp was used for making ropes, both for hangings and for the rigging of ships.
43. Johnson's note: "A cant term in the House of Commons for methods of raising money."
44. Johnson's friend and biographer, Sir John Hawkins, explains that "The nation was discontented at the visits made by the king [George II] to Hanover," where he was born. A writer who criticized the king outright could be arrested for treason, a capital offense, so many resorted to transparent tricks like this.
45. King Alfred the Great ruled England in the ninth century.
46. Kent is a county to the southeast of London.
47. Number, "Verses; poetry" (Johnson).