Extract Essay – Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

Explore how Wordsworth explores the relationship between the natural and the man made worlds.

In this poem Wordsworth explores his joy and inspiration when witnessing a slumbering London interact so perfectly with nature.

Immediately he gives the reader the sense that he is overwhelmed by the image in front of him. This is not just a beautiful sight, but is ‘so touching in its majesty’ this tells us that Wordworth is not just impressed he is almost lost for words and feels an emotional response the beauty before him, the word majesty might further suggest that this image is somehow godly or divine. Even in the first line he is hyperbolic as he says that there is ‘not anything to show more fair’, which promotes this quaint image of a city in the early hours being the most wonderful creation on earth, above traditional ideas of beauty that may picture a waterfall or a rainbow. His hyperbole demonstrates that this sight has not only impressed him, but has left him deeply touch and effected by the power and beauty of the city working with nature.

This relationship between the city and nature is not a typical one, but Wordsworth describes them complimenting each other to make something not just beautiful, but powerful and moving. The city is personified and apparently ‘wear[s] the beauty of the morning’, which suggests that nature is a changeable outfit that adorns the city and in this case is making it extraordinarily beautiful. He also talks about how ‘Ships, towers’ and other man made structures ‘open unto the fields, and to the sky’, which connects the brilliance of human architecture with a usually non-associated beauty of the natural world; in the early morning the city almost seems at one with nature and these images are interconnected. This image is enhanced with the claim that ‘never did the sun more beautifully steep’ on any natural landmarks, telling the reader that Wordsworth thinks human architecture can rival mountains and valleys in the awe-inspiring stakes. Wordsworth’s complimentary imagery and personification demonstrate the beauty he feels comes from the combination of man and the natural world.

One of the main reasons the poet presents such an appreciative and admiring tone is that this is not the London he normally knows, but rather is a London that has yet to rise. As one of the busiest cities in the world, London is usually associated with traffic, fumes, noise and bustle, but in this poem it is a tranquil paradise. First the scene is describe as ‘silent, bare’, in stark contrast to what you may expect of London, which tells us that this poem is written before the day begins and the noise and busyness is yet to start. We are given pleasant imagery of a ‘bright and glittering’ sky that is ‘smokeless’, an image that may remind us of the countryside, peace and quiet and a lack of industry. In addition, the personified river ‘glideth’ by at its own pace, relaxed and tranquil and not yet disturbed by people. This contrast between the real bustling London and this early morning peaceful oasis of London are stark and it is probably this contrast that makes Wordsworth all the more awestruck and impressed.

The houses that seem ‘asleep’ and stilled ‘mighty heart’ suggest this hustle and bustle still exists, but it is resting and allowing man-made architecture to peacefully interact with the beauty of a calm morning in nature.

Wordsworth clearly feels that this image he was confronted by is worthy of admiration and goes so far as to romanticise it through his use of the sonnet form. Sonnets are usually associated with love and romance and this is no exception. The poet feels this is a romantic image, such that it has inspired him to write and touched him emotionally. In addition, we see this inspiration through his use of punctuation and caesuras when painting this image. When he describes the city wearing the beauty of natures morning the lines are heavy with punctuation to slow the pace of the poem and allow us to appreciate and ponder the images he presents.     

Throughout this poem, Wordsworth has demonstrated how overwhelming and inspiring he feels this image is. The contrast of the size and power of the city interacting with the beauty, grace and tranquillity of nature make the image seem divine and magical. The use of hyperbole throughout shows that for Wordsworth this is not just a remarkable image, but something truly important and effecting.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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