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 of The Poem

“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.”

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.

“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.

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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.

Analysis of the Poem

William Wordsworth’s sonnet “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” reflects on the poet’s love of nature and describes the magnificent sunrise over London. His thoughts and feelings are expressed in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, with the rhyme scheme abba abba cdc dcd, an eight-lined octave that sets the scene for the poem, and a six-lined sestet that responds and contains some of his opinion. We can grasp the message more effectively in this form because the content is more compact within the constraints of the sonnet rules, and the theme is thus more intense. The poet emphasises his feelings of love and beauty for that morning by using the Petrarchan rhyming pattern.

The poem’s first octave establishes and describes the scene, which is London.
The poem’s first line, “Earth has not anything to show more fair” begins unexpectedly with great exaggeration. This exaggeration accentuates the profundity of Wordsworth’s emotions. The following line begins with the word “dull” which makes use of syntax, as the poet rearranged the words in an unusual way to emphasise “dull” when read aloud, thereby conveying its meaning. After that, Wordsworth employs personification and simile to illustrate his point. “The City now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning” is an effective simile to use because it implies to the reader that the beauty of this sun rise will fade and disappear as the day progresses, but will reappear the next day – just as one wears clothes, sheds them, and then puts on new clean ones the next day. It implies that beauty does not last indefinitely and is not “worn” away with the setting sun. The personification in this line is also significant in terms of how Wordsworth constructs his impression of London, as it imbues the reader with a sense of artistic beauty. Additionally, personification assists readers in visualising the scene and describing it in common language. Throughout the octave, words and phrases such as “beauty” “silent, bare” “open” and “bright and glittering” provide imagery that helps the reader visualise what Wordsworth felt. The poet expresses his awe and admiration for the wondrous sight through these descriptive words, which are necessary for him to convey his message.

Furthermore, the phrase “silent, bare” creates a sense of tranquillity in the area, not only setting a calm tone and atmosphere, but also hinting at harmony with nature. The inactivity implied here gives the impression of no human life, with only the narrator, and the individuality adds to the beauty.

This is emphasised in the following line, “Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie” as the use of personification demonstrates that London is somewhat alive, emitting a fascination so elegant that he can only marvel in admiration. Furthermore, Wordsworth may have used personification because he thought what he was seeing was so incredible and stunning that it deserved to be given human characteristics. The words “open” and “fields” together with “sky” convey the idea that the beauty is vast and endless, stretching across fields and reaching up to the sky.

The use of the first person narrative by William Wordsworth is also appropriate because it implies that he is involved and allows us to hear his opinions and thoughts. The sights from the city that he shows us in the octave’s content – the city at rest, the first glimpse of sunlight – fit in perfectly with the Romantic poetry genre, as it depicts a landscape with a direct emphasis on nature. The tone of the poem is enchanted, as he writes in awe and peace, demonstrating the depth of the poet’s feelings. The slow pace of the poem adds to the concept of peace and tranquilly, as if the city is sleeping and has not yet been awoken by sunrise. The rhyming pattern (abba abba) is repeating and regular, giving the poem a pulse like a city heartbeat, and its consistency reminds readers of nature or the breath of sleep.

The sestet, unlike the octave, focuses on nature rather than the city. Again, hyperbole is used in the opening word “Never” Instead of simply saying “the sun never more beautifully steep” the poet writes “Never did the sun more beautifully steep” which emphasises the depth of his feelings toward nature and shows a definite line dividing the octave and sestet so readers can observe the change between the two. For emphasis, hyperbole is used again in the third line of the sestet. There is also a lot of personification, such as “The river glideth at his own sweet will” “the very houses seem asleep” and “mighty heart is lying still” Personification helps to bring the poem to life, making it more interesting to the reader and emphasising the beauty of the setting. It demonstrates to the reader that the setting is so beautiful that there is no distinction between man and nature. The third line, “Never felt a calm so deep” suggests to the reader that this is a special, outstanding place to the poet. The punctuation in the fifth line – “Dear God!” – strengthens his feelings and assures readers of the importance and significance of this beautiful sight to him.

The sestet differs from the octave not only in length but also in tone. There are many more exclamations, such as “so deep!”, “dear God!”, and “lying still!”, which quickens the pace. It was slow in the octave, but there appears to be more energy in the sestet, and the pace is faster and more lively. This is consistent with the sestet’s use of human characteristics in personification. The rhyme scheme is cdcdcd, and this consistent, shorter rhyming pattern speeds up the pace.

Despite its ridged formality, this sonnet did not limit Wordsworth’s ability to explore and portray the beauty of the sunrise over Westminster Bridge for the readers; instead, it gives readers a more intense account from an unusual perspective of descriptive writing, which in the end helps to signify the beauty of London in the morning.

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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The Simile

The city now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare.” 


The lines above are from Wordsworth’s poem “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge” The poet describes the city of London in the early morning in this poem. He beautifies the city with a beautiful image/simile. The poet observes the city from the Westminster Bridge, which spans the Thames. The sun has just risen. Its golden rays illuminate the city, making it appear bright and beautiful. The poet is overjoyed to notice the beauty in the smokeless air. That beauty gives him so much pleasure that he imagines the city wearing the beauty of the sun-lit morning like a garment. He wishes to glorify London by comparing the morning beauty to a garment. The poet compares the city to a fair lady using the simile. And by making her wear the garment of the morning beauty, he hopes to improve the city’s appearance.

The Title

Personification

The poem “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge” expresses Wordsworth’s awe at the magnificence of London. In 1802, on his way to Dover from London in a coach with his sister Dorothy, he is moved to tears by the city’s incomparable beauty as seen from Westminster Bridge over the Thames early in the morning. The spectacle was magnificent. The sun shone brilliantly. The smokeless air glistened on everything in the city. It appeared to be dressed in a new gown. It merged with the surrounding fields and the sky above. His soul was soothed by the serene silence that surrounded him. This elicited his joy and wonder, prompting him to compose this lovely sonnet. Indeed, the title makes it abundantly clear what the occasion is. From that vantage point, it makes sense.

Personification

Personification is a literary technique in which inanimate objects are endowed with human characteristics. Wordsworth employs personifications in the poem “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge” to create a vivid image of the beautiful city of London on a sunny morning. The poet breathes life into the sun, the river, the houses, and ultimately into the entire city, which is endowed with a symbolic heart. To personify the sun and the river, he employs personal pronominal adjectives. Never before has the sun shone more brilliantly. The Thames River is free to flow according to “his own sweet will” The city is clothed in the manner of a distant lady. The mighty heart of the city is “lying still”. Thus, Wordsworth animates the city through his use of personifications.

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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