Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Background: The poem was inspired by the vista from Westminster Bridge on July 31, 1802, when the majority of residents were still in bed and industries had not yet stoked their fires and contaminated the air with smoke. He and his sister, Dorothy, were crossing the bridge in a coach bound for a boat bound for France. Dorothy recorded in her diary: “We mounted the Dover Coach at Charing Cross.” It was a lovely morning. The City, St. Paul’s, along with the River and a plethora of small boats, created a very lovely sight. Although the houses were not obscured by their cloud of smoke and were stretched out indefinitely, the sun shone so brightly with such pure light that there was something like to the purity of Nature’s own spectacular spectacles.

Summary and Analysis

“Earth has not anything to show more fair”… This is the first line of William Wordsworth’s sonnet, “Composed on Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802.” As a romantic poet, Wordsworth frequently extols the beauty of nature, yet this sonnet is unique among his works. Wordsworth conveys intense feelings and emotions about nineteenth-century London in this text. He depicts London in the morning and, quite unexpectedly, he is taken aback by the city’s beauty.

The poem, written in the Petrarchan sonnet form, talks about the beauty of London in the early morning when the sun is just beginning to rise. We get a sense of how much the speaker likes the city when we look at it. It looks like he’s looking at something that can’t be, but it’s still there for him to see. This admiration is shown through the development of a strange paradox, which says that two things that are very different, like the city and nature, can’t be together. When the city wears “like a garment” the natural beauty of the morning, it looks “beautiful.” But wearing the beauty of the morning means that the city is bare (naked): what it wears is “the smokeless air,” which makes it look “beautiful.”

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Carrying over the paradox, the sestet adds to it and makes it even better. There is a link to the dress metaphor because of how a city is bathed in the sun’s rays. Then, the paradox is extended to the strange union of the dead (or asleep) and being alive. The city is now more beautiful and lively than nature itself, but this is only because it has been bathed in the sun’s light and is asleep. This is shown by the words steep – deep – asleep, which all rhyme. Instead of the city, which is “lying still,” the natural parts of the landscape, like the sunlight and “valley or hill,” as well as the river, are now “active,” and they rule over the city, which is “lying still.” There is a heart in the last line of the text. This heart, which represents the heart of a city, makes the city alive because it doesn’t move and is dominated by nature.

The rhythms of the poem help support the poem’s theme. The enjambments (and the eye-rhyme) in the octave show how much the speaker loves this beautiful sight. Another way to show this is that while the lines of the Petrarchan sonnet in English should be iambic pentameters, none of these lines is. If the rhythm gets close to this (lines 3, 4, 5, and 12), the sentence structure or a caesura breaks it up. In all but the last line, the rhythms become smoother and the iambic pentameter ends the poem.

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“And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

One reason this metrical development is so important is that it makes it clear when the poem is over. Iambic rhythm makes us feel as though the heart of the city is beating. This line is the last one in the poem, and it sums up the paradox that has been developing throughout the poem. This means that the city is dead, it is not itself, and it is ruled by its natural surroundings. It is only when it is dead that it can come to life: the mighty heart starts to beat only when it is lying still.

This one may not be about nature as much as it is about a city that looks like it is part of nature. In fact, his description of the city has a very idealistic feel to it, as if he is talking about a place that isn’t on this earth but in heaven. In this poem, beautiful and descriptive language, an easy flow of metre, and well-chosen rhymes are used to show how the speaker has felt elated.

Theme of the Poem

In his poem “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,” William Wordsworth describes his experience of an early morning in London. The poet is speaking in his own voice, and he employs the Petrarchan sonnet form to describe the views he saw in the city, before comparing them to nature. He observes both natural elements such as the river, the sun, the sky, the valley, the rock, and the hill, as well as man-made objects such as ships, towers, theatres, temples, and residences. The natural elements and man-made items are linked by the city’s attractiveness. Because man, who created the city, is natural, the urban environment might be considered natural life. The language is straightforward, perhaps reflecting the poet’s quick and unsophisticated feeling of how lovely the London view is, and the poet expresses the wonderful serenity and quietness that characterise early mornings. The tone is joyful, solemn, and solemn.

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Form of the poet

This is a Petrarchan sonnet of fourteen lines divided into two quatrains and two terzets. The rhyme system is ABBA ABBA CDC DCD ABBA ABBA ABBA ABBA ABBA ABBA ABBA AB Each line contains ten syllables, half of which are long and heavy, followed by five brief syllables. This is what is referred to as iambic pentameter. To demonstrate his cognitive processes, Wordsworth breaks up the lines’ rhythm with extensive use of commas.

Imagery

The most striking figure of speech in the poem is personification. It dresses the city in a garment and gives it a heart, makes the sun “in his first splendour” a benefactor, and bestows on the river a will of its own. 

Examples of other figures of speech in the poem are as follows:
Line 2, alliteration: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
Line 3, alliteration: A sight so touching in its majesty
Lines 4, 5 simile: This City now doth like a garment wear / The beauty of the morning: silent bare (comparison of beauty to a garment)
Line 13: metaphor: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; (comparison of houses to a creature that sleeps)

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