Comparison between “London” by William Blake and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” by William Wordsworth The city of London has inspired many poets throughout the ages. Two of the most distinctive portrayals are William Blake’s “London” published in Songs of Experience in 1974 and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” by William Wordsworth. While both Blake and Wordsworth comment on the conflict between appearance and reality, Blake shows the gloomy ugliness by taking down London’s streets.
William Wordsworth’s ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ reveals the beauty of London from upriver. Their poems symbolize British royalty and politics. Setting, tone and theme help reader develop a greater appreciation both the pleasures and pains of life. Both poets’ writing is around the same time. However they have totally different views of the same city. “London” “London” has four quartrains, with very regular ABAB rhyming schemes. The repetition is also evident in the language. Words such as ‘charter’d’, ‘mark’ and ‘every’ are repeated in the poem and create a sense of urgency.
Wordsworth’s poem is a sonnet, fourteen lines, written in regular metre of Iambic Pentameters, lines of ten syllables. Both titles are very clear about the content in the poems so therefore setting the scene. Both poems are set near London’s famous Thames River. “London” begins with an attack on the new Capitalism of the 1700s in the lines, ‘I wander through each charter’d” street, near where the charter’d Thames does flow’, Blake has repeated the word “charter’d” to sharpen the ironic point whereas Wordsworth is just viewing London from above.
The narrator of “Westminster Bridge” feels forced to pause and examine the city from the vantage point of the bridge that crosses the Thames. The narrators’s soul is stirred by the majestic ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples that filled the heart of London. To the narrator, it is more perfect and more attractive than all of God’s creation. Similarly, Blake’s London described a wandering or near where the charter’d Thames does flow. However, the speaker doesn’t admire London’s architecture; he looks down and focuses on the people.
London is filled with marks of weakness and woe to Blake’s narrator. Blake mentions the “blasts” of the infant, chimney sweeper, soldier and even the harlot. Wordsworth’s London is asleep and at rest, while Blake’s London is restless and awake even through midnight. While Wordsworth portrays the beauty of London, Blake describes a cruel, cold and bitter London. The purpose of Blake’s London is to reveal the compulsion of the lower class citizens of London, by the nobles during the late 18th century.
Blake uses various poetic devices in order to enhance the portrayal of the poem’s purpose to the reader. These devices include metaphor, symbolism, and repetition. ‘The mind-forged manacles I hear’ (line 8) is the central image of the poem. Manacles are chains which prisoner would have to wear and they were also used to prevent slaves from escaping. The narrator is suggesting that people’s minds are restricted and confined-that the city has robbed them of the ability to think. The poem is full of negative words: ‘weakness’, ‘woe’, ‘cry’, ‘fear’, ‘appals’, ‘blood’, blights’, plagues’ and ‘hearse’.
Although the poem ends with the phrase ‘marriage’, it isn’t symbolize love or new life but with the word ‘hearse’. In Blake’s opinion the future of the city brings nothing but decay and death. In the meantime, Wordsworth uses personification throughout the poem to create a sense of the city as a living creature, along with London “wears” the morning, and has a “might heart,” and houses are “asleep. ” Negative language is used to create the impression that the city is greater to nature. “Never did the sun more beautifully,” “Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep! Furthermore, words like ‘majesty’ and ‘mighty’ suggests the strength of power of the city, which the speaker here is in awe of the power he is experiencing. These two views of 19th century London, symbolize and its complexities. Those are times when the world is incomprehensible, lonely and unjust. Some suggest that people cannot appreciate happiness without and understanding of sadness, cannot define light without experiencing darkness. Whilst “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” is positive, Blake is concerned with the negatives of life in London.
Wordsworth here is focusing on the city in the morning, and does not mention seeing people. Blake’s poem is about the effects of the city on its residents. Wordsworth’s line “The river glideth at his own sweet will’ is arguably a rejection of Blake ‘description of the “charter’d Thames”. The speaker in Wordsworth’s poem seems to believe in the power of nature to persist alongside the man-made city, even that it is perfected by the city. Ultimately, the hell of Blake’s London and the heaven of Wordsworth’s London complement each other, reminding the reader that world is truly bitter sweet.