‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ by William Wordsworth [Poem Review]

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This is actually a really short poem but there are some interesting things to be said about how Wordsworth describes London and how his words relate to what is surrounding Westminster Bridge. I highly recommend that you take a look at a map that includes Westminster Bridge so you can get an idea of where it is situation before reading this poem, since it’s kind of important to understand why Wordsworth sees the city as he does. Another helpful piece of information is that this is a sonnet–a petrarchan to be exact. This will help you understand the seemingly sudden change in rhythm about halfway through the poem. And with that, time to look at some quotes!

This City now doth like a garment wear

This beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Lines 4-5

The city is described as a fancy dress that is covered in gems–the first light of the morning. It is later described as “smokeless” which is a miracle in itself. This is because it is still too early for any of the factories to have started for the day and the narrator is offering the reader a perspective of the city that few get to see.

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

Lines 6-7

There is an openness to the scene, given that to most of the people living in London it seems more like the buildings cover the sky then lay open to them. There is also this associated with fields which isn’t the norm for city-life either. It reminds me of pastoral poems in which the poet praises nature and the spiritual aspects of being one with it. It seems to me that Wordsworth is using the same technics but towards the city instead since he inspires him in the same way nature does with others. The creations of humans are able to be one with nature instead of in opposition as most people would see it.

Image from Brigitte Werner

As to the buildings that are listed, Westminster looks out over some of the most important buildings of power and politics in London–probably even England–so to link those building specifically with the power of nature is an interesting choice. I think this poem says a lot about how people might have felt about the industrial era and the rapid growth of London at the beginning of the 19th Century. There seems to be an exchange of nature for masterpieces built by humans.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

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