Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

“Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” is an Italian sonnet, written in iambic pentameter with ten syllables per line. The rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaabbacdcdcd. The poem was actually written about an experience that took place on July 31, 1802 during a trip to France with Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy Wordsworth.

The poem begins with a rather shocking statement, especially for a Romantic poet: “Earth has not anything to show more fair.” This statement is surprising because Wordsworth is not speaking of nature, but of the city. He goes on to list the beautiful man-made entities therein, such as “Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples.” In fact, nature’s influence isn’t described until the 7th line, when the speaker relates that the city is “open to the fields, and to the sky.” While the city itself may not be a part of nature, it is certainly not in conflict with nature. This becomes even more clear in the next line, when the reader learns that the air is “smokeless” (free from pollution).

Wordsworth continues to surprise his reader by saying that the sun has never shone more beautifully, even on natural things. He then personifies the scene, giving life to the sun, the river, the houses, and finally to the whole city, which has a symbolic heart. The reader imagines that the city’s heart beats rapidly during the day, while everything and everyone in it is bustling about, but now, in the early morning hours, the city’s heart is “lying still.” By using personification in his poem, Wordsworth brings a kind of spirit to the city, which is usually seen as a simple construction of rock and metal.

  • Do you agree with this review? Account for your answer with the poem.
  • Choose another poem we have read which deals with the same topic and say why they are different.
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5 Responses to Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

  1. Luna says:

    1) I agree with the review. Wordsworth describes the city as a beautiful place, many writers would think she is mad because of the way she sees the city which in other poems is described as a smogged and polluted area full of noises and buildings. But this writer is admiring this bridge in the city at the early morning and she is surprised on how the city can have this country aspect.
    2) We also analyzed previously other poems of nature vs city or modernization but in all these poems the modernization is ruing or destroying nature, which in this poem does not happen.

  2. Flor Araya says:

    1. I agree with this review because it explains that the author is amazed by the beauty of the city. And beacuse I hadn’t realized that “The reader imagines that the city’s heart beats rapidly during the day, while everything and everyone in it is bustling about, but now, in the early morning hours, the city’s heart is “lying still.”
    2. In The Planners the writer is very negative and disappointed because he hates the expansion and progress of cities and modernization since from his point of view, it’s destroying nature and culture. “Even the sea draws back and the skies surrender”, this is ironic because this quote portrays that nature is afraid of human beings and expansion while it should be the other way around, we should be scared of nature, of the tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, etc. On the other hand, in Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, the writer is amazed and delighted by the beauty of London at dawn. And explains that “while the city itself may not be a part of nature, it is certainly not in conflict with nature.”

  3. Bautista Olaizola says:

    1) I agree with this review too. It said thingas I didn’t know and it give you a lot of information about the poem for example that was going to France, this show you that this man was impressed with the bridge in seconds only because he was crossing the bridge.
    2) “The Planners” is another poem that admire the city but the differenceis that here the writter is admiring the nature and in “The Planners” the writter is saying that technology is destroying nature

  4. Catu Grosso says:

    1)I agree with the review, I like it because its give more information about the writer and the trip he made to London. The title of the poem is Composed upon westminster bridge, the title tells us where was the poem written, “open to fields, and to the sky” The city is not part of nature but he stills admired the city.

    2) “The City Planners” this poem is about the bad things the city makes to nature but in this poem he is not criticizing city, he likes the country as he likes the city too.

  5. Lucila Giambruni says:

    1) I agree with this review because it analyses deeper the information of the poem. For example, I had never realized that he was talking about the city when he says “Earth has nothing to show more fair”. I come to an agreement with this text when it says that the city is not in conflict with nature, but yes, man-made creations such as cars, are damaging nature.
    2) Another poem we´ve read is “The Planners” which expresses that all in the city is perfect. And that man-made things like buildings are destroying nature. One of the themes of this poem is Mam vs. Nature. “The city draws back and the skies surrender” meaning that nature is disappearing as consequence of the buiding of towers or roads.

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