The sample essay on Westminster Bridge Poem deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
The two poems, ‘London’ and ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’, show two different perspectives of the city and its inhabitants. Both poems illustrate the poets’ views on London which are quite diverse yet still have similarities in their respective outlooks. ‘London’ portrays Blake’s views about the city and the people that inhabit it as a direct comment on the oppressive, industrialised, hierarchical society in which it was written, emphasizing some of the key themes of the poem including suffering, corruption and devastation.
In comparison we see the poem ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ in a very different light. It demonstrates the beauty of the city and its freedom describing London as a majestic sight. These poets from the Romantic period in literature believed that children were innocent and uncorrupted, vulnerable yet a source of hope, “A child more than all other gifts that earth can offer to declining man, bring hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts”. Both poets convey their anger and concern about the corruptive influence that the older and more powerful members of society had on the rest of the population.
This concern is mirrored in their style of writing as both poets believed in making their poetry accessible to the ordinary and less educated members of society and did this successfully by using simple and un-elaborate diction. Wordsworth effectively uses the technique of personification in order to portray the false fai? ade the city presents in the absence of people. This is evident when Wordsworth writes, ‘The City now doth like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning; silent, bare. This delivers the idea that the morning symbolizes a false representation of London as well as his use of a simile that delineates it as a cloak, hiding the true meaning. This suggests that the beauty and calm are illusory and conceal the pain and suffering beneath. I feel that the word ‘bare’ is significant as it symbolises the lack of people, whilst creating a calm, idealistic place free from all the bounds society, a world much sought after by the romantics. It is a powerful image at odds with the modern world.
It is interesting that the idea of bareness, in the poet’s mind, relates to hope and opportunity. In the overcrowded modern day London, the notion of opportunity relates more to the busy and efficient nature of the place than the emptiness. This is associated heavily to a point expressed in the poem, which is the absence of people from the city whilst the nature around flourishes. Wordsworth implies that the splendour of the city is a direct result of the exemption of people and the society they live in. We see this when he writes, ‘All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Wordsworth Poem Westminster Bridge
This gives the reader the impression of a tranquil, stunning and striking view of London, yet I feel Wordsworth is savouring this moment, with full knowledge that a ‘sight so touching in its majesty’ will not last. Wordsworth is voicing an attack on the prevailing industry of the period when he writes ‘smokeless air’ which implies that industry and people are destroying the nature, which is personified throughout the poem in this absence of people. The hyperbole ‘Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! suggests a more ominous, cynical tone where the city in all its beauty is asleep and its ‘mighty heart’ lying still has yet to stir.
Figuratively, when the sleeping beauty awakens it becomes a powerful wave tearing apart this nature and freedom. This is demonstrated by the image of the free-flowing river that exists in the city. There are some key contrasts and similarities developed in the poem London that is centred on the theme of suffering. Without delay we are struck with the use of ‘I’, therefore reading the poem through the eyes of the writer creating a more personal and intimate perception of London.
As well as this Blake uses the traditional form of alternate rhyming lines to replicate the repetitive predictability of the circle of suffering. Another key contrast between the poems is the volume of people around the city. Blake uses the technique of repetition to reiterate and emphasize that this suffering is everywhere. We see this when he writes, ‘In every cry of every man… In every voice, in every ban. ‘ This gives us the impression that the poem is one of protest and the word ‘ban’ in particular suggests an anti law attitude from Blake and a view that people’s freedom is compromised.
Freedom is a key theme demonstrated in both poems however in completely different ways as Wordsworth presents the city with freedom whilst Blake portrays a city where its people and even children are enslaved. This is conveyed when he writes, ‘The mind-forged manacles I hear. ‘ This suggests that it isn’t just external restrictions that were placed upon the people of London, but they themselves allow those in power to place the restrictions by not fighting the injustice of it all and so the people are now powerless to change anything.
Moreover Blake has effectively used alliteration to bring power to the sentence along with the word ‘manacles’, which gives a real feeling of restraint along with a graphic impression of unbreakable handcuffs on the hands of ‘every man’. This links with a saying by philosopher Rousseau, ‘Man is born free, yet is everywhere in chains. ‘ This represents a key theme presented in Blake’s poem, the idea of mans’ liberty being affected by capitalism and the state.
This is made explicit when even the river, a natural phenomenon is ‘chartered’ suggesting it is owned and corrupted. In comparison we see the ‘river glideth at its own sweet will’ in ‘Westminster’ portraying that nature has no restrictions and it is man and society that places these restrictions upon each other. Blake’s poem demonstrates an attack on the church and institutions that he felt were corrupt and legitimized the suffering of children. This is shown when he has written, ‘how the chimney sweeper’s cry, Every black’ning church appals. This brings connotations of death along with the irony that the church is causing this suffering and death instead of bringing peace and unity to the world. The word ‘black’ning’ is particularly effective as it is a sinister colour and that of the soot asphyxiating the children as they sweep chimneys. It is completely dissimilar to the ‘bright and glittering’ colour of Westminster and so I feel Blake is suggesting that the church is to blame for this. There is also the idea put forward in Wordsworth’s poem that these institutions have no conflict with nature.
All the ‘ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie open unto the fields’ which conveys a harmonious feeling between the two and that it is humans that produce and bring in this conflict. The last stanza, I feel, is connected to the ‘black’ning church’ and a sinister feeling is created by the use of the word ‘midnight’. The church is the main cause of prostitution, which leads people into a cycle of disease and suffering, inferred when he writes, ‘How the youthful harlot’s curse, Blasts the new-born infants tear, and blights with plagues the marriage hearse. This conveys a message that from the start of their life, people are doomed to this cycle of devastation as a result of STD’s. On reflection, the sonnet ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’ has a delicate rhyming scheme that sets the appropriate tone to communicate the poet’s ideas. The poem is divided by the rhyming scheme presenting us with an octet and sextet. The first eight lines of the poem and their subtle ABBA rhyming scheme portray natural speech as well as suggesting harmony that is reflected in his depiction of the city.
This changes and a stronger alternate rhyme is introduced inaugurating a more upbeat tempo to the poem giving it an unsettling, disconcerting feel. With this change comes the presentation of the poet and his thoughts and feelings when he writes, ‘ne’er saw I’ which I feel strengthens his voice and opinions whilst producing a more individual account of his views. This complies with the normality of the sonnet technique, as most have a subtle change in either rhythm, pace or tone after the 8th line.
In conclusion, both poems depict different views of the city, however unlike Blake’s ‘London’, Wordsworth’s ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ contains underlying ideas and beliefs that I feel play a key role in revealing Wordsworth’s feelings and outlook. A key idea in Wordsworth’s poem is that, although things such as the city appear beautiful and free, this is not necessarily the reality. This conveys a contrast of appearance vs. reality. This is different to Blake’s outlook that clearly portrays the suffering and corruption found in city life.
In some aspects the poems, when read together, could be interpreted in a manner that Blake’s ‘London’ is exposing the hidden city presented in Wordsworth’s poem. The two poems share many common themes including corruption, freedom and restriction, facade and truth. Both writers, in my opinion, are criticising every aspect of society and together depict a strong message that society produces confines and corruptions in people and institutions. It’s interesting to consider what Wordsworth and Blake would make of the big brother, nanny state in which London now exists.