Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3 1802 - William Wordsworth

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!

Is there anything more magical than a huge city completely silent?  That's what Wordsworth, in his breathlessly excited account of London in early morning, as viewed from Westminster Bridge, captures so perfectly.  I have actually seen this scenario myself, though about 212 years after this poem.  I have to agree, in that early dawn hour, it does seem as though "the very houses seem asleep."  I can only wonder what Wordsworth would think of things like the London Eye if he marvels so at "ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples" that line the river Thames.

There really isn't much to this poem, but given the title, I like to imagine that Wordsworth was passing by and was so taken by the beauty of the scenery that he had no choice but to compose a poem right then and there.  It's a very Romantic idea, and Wordsworth is one of the architects of Romantic poetry.  Read the poem slowly and luxuriate in its illuminating imagery and language.