Saturday, June 01, 2013

UPON THE WESTMINSTER BRIDGE by William Wordsworth: An Analysis

Westminster Bridge

The Author:

William Wordsworth
  William Wordsworth (1770-1850), a poet belonging to the first generation of the English Romantic poets.

The Source:

       The poet William Wordsworth was greatly charmed by the early morning scene of London watched from a coach while crossing the Westminster Bridge on the way to Dover on 31st July, 1802. He immediately wrote a poem reflecting his personal feelings, perceptions and fascinations. The poem was Upon the Westminster Bridge. The poem got its final form when Wordsworth and Dorothy were returning from France on 3rd September, 1802. Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal supports these facts.

The Substance:

         The poet is crossing the Westminster Bridge over the Thames in a coach early in the morning. The sun is just rising up and the great city of London is bathed in its first light. The poet is deeply moved by the beauty of the scene. It appears to him to be the loveliest sight. Nobody can ignore this unparalleled and splendid sight. And if there is any, he is definitely devoid of any sense of natural beauty. The city seems to wear a dress of golden sunbeams.
     The city is totally silent and clearly visible. The sky is clear having no dust and no smoke. There is no noise in the atmosphere. All is calm and quiet. Everything of the city such as ships, towers, domes, theaters, temples etc is clearly visible even from the green fields that lie in distance in the unpolluted air of the early morning. All are brilliantly shining in the golden rays of the rising sun.
      The valley, rock and hill look lovely at sunrise. But the city of London is the loveliest. The river (Thames) flows freely. Its course is not obstructed by the movements of boats or ships. The very houses seem to be sleeping. London, the heart of the country, remains calm and quiet as if a roaring giant is stilled. The poet makes an impassioned address to God, the creator of all beauty upon the earth, to express his sincere gratitude to Him.

The Features:

         The poem Upon the Westminster Bridge is a perfect sonnet. It has a regular pattern following the Italian model. The simple diction, meter and style of the poem enhance the simplicity, frankness and beauty of the theme. The poem is a pleasant one to read and perceive. It is also a brilliant romantic poem. Wordsworth, a romantic poet, creates a purely romantic expression throughout the poem. Nature is all alive to him. The beautiful objects of nature stir his inner soul and make him fascinated towards them.

The city of London

  The poet, Wordsworth gives a fine pen-picture of the city of London in his poem “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge”. He is deeply moved by the natural beauty of the city as seen from the Westminster Bridge in the early morning. London looks beautiful in the splendour of the rising sun. It seems as if the city of London has clothed itself in the beauty of the morning. A profound calm prevailed there. Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples are glittering brightly in the smokeless air. The city has become merged with adjacent green fields and the clear sky overhead. It seems that the sun has never shone more beautifully. The poet has never felt such a calmness as this before. The river Thames flows freely. The restful condition of the city inspires the poet to rejoice. He thanks God for such a rare experience.

The Simile

  “The city now doth like a garment wear
    The beauty of the morning; silent, bare."
The above lines are an extract of Wordsworth’s poem “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge”. Here the poet describes the city of London in the early morning. He uses a fine image/simile to beautify the city. The poet views the city from the Westminster Bridge over the Thames. The sun has just come out. Its golden rays fall on the city which looks bright and beautiful. The poet is greatly pleased to observe that beauty in the smokeless air. That beauty gives him so much pleasure that he personifies the city, and he imagines that the city wears the beauty of the sun-lit morning like a garment. By comparing the morning beauty to a garment, he wants to glorify the city of London. By the simile, the poet imagines the city as a fair lady. And by making her wear the garment of the morning beauty, he wants to make the city look more attractive. 

The Title 

  The poem, “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge”, depicts Wordsworth’s reaction to the amazing beauty of the city of London. On his way to Dover from London along with his sister Dorothy in a coach in 1802, he is deeply moved by the incomparable beauty of the city viewed from Westminster Bridge over the thames early in the morning. The spectacle was wonderful. The sun was shining brightly. Everything in the city was glittering in the smokeless air. It seemed to wear a new dress. It became one with the adjacent fields and the sky overhead. The serene silence all around soothed his soul. This evoked his joy and wonder which promoted him to pen this sweet sonnet. Infact, the title clearly indicates the occasion. From that point of view it is appropriate.

The Personification


  Personification is a literary style to impose human qualities on inanimate objects. In the poem, “Composed Upon the Westminster Bridge”, Wordsworth uses personifications to present a live picture of the beautiful city of London in the sun-lit morning. The poet gives life to the sun, the river, the houses and finally to the whole city which has a symbolic heart. He uses personal pronominal adjectives to personify the sun and the river. The sun has never shone more beautifully. The river Thames flows freely at ‘his own sweet will’. The city wears a garment like a far lady. The city’s mighty heart is ‘lying still’. Hence, by using personifications, Wordsworth enlivens the city.

The MCQ & SAQ DATA BANK

  • Date of composition ==> September 3, 1802 ( July 31, 1802 in another opinion)
  • Year of publication ==> 1807 in “Poems in Two volumes”
  • Westminster Bridge ==> It is a bridge in England crossing the river Thames near Westminster Abbey and leading to the road to Dover.
  • Occasion of composition ==> While going to France, on his way from London to Dover, Wordsworth looked at the city of London from Westminster Bridge. It was early morning and he was moved by the beauty of the city. He stopped his horse carriage on the bridge and wrote the poem.
  • Poet’s companion ==> Dorothy, the poet’s sister.
  • Type of the poem ==> It is a Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet having 14 lines divided into Octave (first eight lines) and Sestet (last six lines). The Octave follows the rhyme scheme abba-abba while the sestet keeps to cdcdcd.
  • Use of Personification ==> The city of London wears a new garment. The river Thames is gliding on his own free will. The houses of London are fast asleep.
  • This city ==> The city of London.
  • Garment ==> The beauty of the morning covers the city just as a dress covers the body.
  • Domes ==> The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • The river ==> The Thames, a river of Southern England flowing from the Costworlds in Gloucestershire through London to the North Sea.
  • Steep ==> to submerge or cover; to radiate; to immerse.
  • Bare ...clothed ==> The city of London has been described as both ‘bare’ and ‘clothed’. This is a case of paradox.
  • Dear God ! ==> The poet addresses God out of joy and wonder. It is an exclamation.
  • Glittering ==> Dazzling
  • Majesty ==> Magnificence
  • Will ==> Desire
  • Still ==> Silent
  • Mighty ==> Large, gigantic.
  • Mighty heart ==> Huge heart [Here, the city has been compared to a giant with a huge heart. When the city is full of commercial activity, it assumes an ugly shape like that of a giant. It is an example of a metaphor.
  • Glideth ==> Flows
  • The city now doth like a garment wear ==> The city of London here is imagined as a fair lady. The poet imagines that the city wears a garment. It is a grand example of simile.
  • The very houses seem asleep ==> Here, houses are personified as ‘asleep’. The houses are asleep for the members are sleeping. So the houses are calm and tranquill.
  • The river glideth at his own sweet will ==> Here, the river Thames is personified, for as if he is in charge of his own movement.
  • In his first splendour ==> Here, the sun is personified. The sun is shining in its full radiance.
  • Never did the sun more beautifully steep ==> It is an example of metaphor to emphasise how attractive the sunlight is. He wants to show how everything in the city is immersed in sunlight. As a result, the city of London is glowing in its radiating beauty.
  • Earth has not anything to show more fair ==> It is an example of hyperbole. Here we find Wordsworth exault in ecstasy.

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