“Composed upon Westminster Bridge” and “London” are two very different poems themed around the growing important and powerful city of London. William Wordsworth, who wrote “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”, writes about the spectacular view and landscape he can see from Westminster Bridge, on an early crisp morning, with the flowering and dazzling sun shining down upon it. He wrote this poem in 1802, when he was in his horse and carriage on his way to France. Whilst passing on Westminster Bridge he couldn’t help but notice this marvellous view in front of him, inspiring him to write “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”, then and there.
However William Blake, author of “London”, portrays London as being politically incorrect, full of woe and corruption, as well as suffering and depression. He writes this controversial poem in a way that makes the reader feel as if he is walking the streets of London and that you are there with him, watching all this corruption and suffering first-hand.
He wrote this poem in 1792, around the time of the French revolution. In “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”, Wordsworth describes the magnificent view of London he can see from Westminster Bridge.
He starts by saying how London is the most beautiful place on earth, and that anyone who could pass by without stopping to take in this magnificence; they would have to be extremely dull and boring. He also describes the view as being breathtaking and specifically focuses on the visual aspects of London, describing how peaceful and calm the city is, so early in the morning.
On the other hand, Blake’s poem “London” focuses on the common people living in the heart of London. He goes in to detail about the suffering and lack of freedom these people have, and how the government and monarchy is to blame.
He also describes how the church turns a blind eye to child labour and how there are constant rules and regulations imprisoning peoples voices, views and basic needs. In ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’, Wordsworth uses the form of a petrarchan sonnet to structure his poem. This in itself tells the reader how much Wordsworth is in-Love with the city of London, as a petrarchan sonnet is the original form of sonnet, used mostly to describe deep and true feelings such as love. Wordsworth also structures his poem using an octave for the first part of his poem.
These first eight lines set out his proposition that London is the most beautiful place on earth and helps to introduce the reader to the scenery and feeling he is seeing and experiencing. But for the last six lines, Wordsworth uses a sestet to come to his resolution. This makes it easy for the reader to understand and acknowledge what Wordsworth is feeling, helping the reader to relate to his emotions. It also helps to bring the poem to a calm and peaceful conclusion, helping the reader take in all the positivity presented in this poem.
Another technique Wordsworth uses to help the structure of his poem is ‘enjambment’; this is when a line does not come to and end, but simply flows into the next line, creating a sense of freedom to his imagination, and makes the reader feel as if Wordsworth thoughts are flowing on to the page. Finally Wordsworth uses caesura, this is the use of commas and semi-colons to force the reader to pause. Wordsworth describes the, “Beauty of the morning; silent, bare”. The short pauses in this line forces the reader to stop, helping the reader to take in and picture the beauty and peacefulness of this scene.
However Blake chooses to structure his poem in a very formal, strict and controlled manner. For example the poem is divided into four quatrains with an alternate rhyming scheme, for example A,B,A,B and C,D,C,D. This strict control very much ties in with the theme of Blake’s poem about the lack of freedom and over restriction the people had in London at that time. Another way in which Blake has structured his poem is the use of repetition. This structural technique helps to build up and create a strict and steady rhythm, referring back to the controlled society at the time.
This controlled and tight rhythm also helps to echo Blake’s foot steps as he is walking through the streets of London. The imagery used in ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge’, helps to paint a free, natural and positive image in the readers mind. For example “the city now doth, like a garment wear, the beauty of the morning; silent, bare”, this particular image creates a picture suggesting that the bright shining light of the sun blossoms over the city, making it seem as if it is almost wearing the rays of the sun like a peace of majestic clothing.
This adds the feeling to the poem that makes the reader see London as something monumental and ceremonious, as the wearing of the sun like a garment makes it seem special and momentous. Another image Wordsworth uses is “Dull would he be of soul, who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty”, this is suggesting that the city should be treated as royalty, due to the vast beauty of the city and that you could not possibly pass without stopping to admire the vast magnificence of the city. This makes you feel as if the city has importance and control due to its beauty alone.
Wordsworth describes the city using the metaphor “And all the mighty heart is lying still”, this makes the reader picture London as being at the centre of control over the rest of the world, due to its charisma and importance. It also makes the reader see London as being alive and free, making the reader feel that London is almost natural and essential. Another example of this is when Wordsworth says “The river glideth at his own sweet will”, showing that the is free to flow where ever it pleases and nothing is controlling it . However, Blake on the other hand uses dark and depressing images to help describe his view of London.
One example is in the line ” How the chimney sweepers cry, every blackening church appals”, this picture is creating the image of suffering and abuse, stating that the church is to blame for the lack of care over the orphan children and lack of responsibility they showed for the care of these innocent children. It also gives the feeling of corruption and betrayal from the hierarchies in the city. Another image Blake uses is “And the hapless soldiers sigh, runs like blood down palace walls”. This particular image makes the reader picture the Monarchy and government as being selfish and insensitive.
It also shows that the monarchy is to blame for the deaths of the soldiers abroad and that they are just being using and deposing the soldiers like toy figures, giving them no freedom of speech. Blake also use the image “The mind-forged manacles I hear”, this image is referring to the lack of freedom the people have and that they are not physically chained down, but mentally restrained by the lack of freedom and voice the had through these desperate times. This also shows the feeling at the time this poem was written, showing how it mentally depressing, dull and restraint everything was.
In ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, Wordsworth uses flattering and complementary language to describe his feelings for London. The use of this kind of diction helps him to portray the beauty and importance of London to the reader. One word for example is “Majesty”; Wordsworth has chosen to use this word as it brings forward the feeling of royalty and importance. This is because “majesty” is what we use to address the Queen, as well as to describe something as being majestic. Secondly he uses words such as “bright” and “glittering”, these make the reader think of London as being very eye catching and very prominent in its presence.
Wordsworth also uses the word “Mighty”, this particular word sums up his view on London, claiming that London is a strong and bold place, that stands out strongly. It also brings the feeling and sense of importance to the city and that it is relied upon by many over the world. Finally Wordsworth uses the words “Dear God”, this makes the reader feel as if London is almost holy and sacred, and that only God could have created something so beautiful. On the other hand Blake uses Anglo-Saxon style of language to compose his poem. This language is harsh and coarse, and reflects the type of language used by the common people.
You can see an example of this in the line “Every blackening church appals”, this is because the language used is very plain and does not flow out of your mouth, but seems to almost be spat out in disgust. Secondly Blake uses dramatic and powerful words such as “manacles”, this is very effective in showing the restraint on the people and creates the feeling of order and slavery. Another word in particular is the word “woe”, this creates the effect that makes the reader picture everything as being depressing and upsetting. All this negative and harsh use of a basic language reflects on the mood and the ways of the common people at the time.
The sound techniques used in “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”, helps to show Wordsworth’s feelings for London and help to bring this choice of words to life. The technique he uses is sibilance; this is the use of “s” and “ch” words. This technique helps to create a hissing sound, e. g. “a sight so touching in its majesty”. This hissing sound represents Wordsworth’s excitement and joy about London and the view he can see from Westminster Bridge. Blake on the other hand uses two different techniques for two different reasons in his poem. The first technique is repetition.
This helps to emphasise his anger and outrage at the suffering of the common people. An example of this is in the lines, “In every cry of every man, In every infants cry of fear, In every voice in every ban”. This helps to show and highlight that the suffering is widespread and is repeated everywhere he goes. The second technique Blake uses is alliteration. Examples of alliteration is “Most through Midnight streets” and “Mindforged Manacles”, this helps to emphasise Blake’s anger and frustration at all the pointless and unnecessary suffering in London at that time.
The poem “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”, presents a view of London that is very positive and moving. Wordsworth wanted the meaning of his poem to be clear and obvious to all. He very much succeeded in this, as everyone can see that he feels very passionately about London and sees it as a thing of beauty and magnificence. The overall message that is presented in “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”, is that although London is man made, it has the presence of something natural.
He also describes London as being a holy and spiritually moving place, and that its majestic presence brings about a feeling of great importance around the whole world. However, on the other hand Blake presents a view of London that makes the reader see it as depressing and bleak. He portrays London as being politically corrupt, due to the heartlessness of the Monarchy and government and the lack of will they have to stop the suffering of the common people at the bottom of London economy at the time. Blake wanted to present the overall meaning of his poem as being dull, depressing and dark, with little hope for the common people.
Both Wordsworth and Blake felt very strongly about there views on London as a whole and both felt that their poems represented a fair and true meaning of the city of London. In “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” Wordsworth creates a peaceful and exciting mood London. He also uses a subtle tone when describing the view of London he can see and creates a natural and majestic atmosphere making the reader feel as if they are alongside Wordsworth on that early crisp morning, experiencing the presence of the blossoming sun for themselves.
However, Blake’s poem “London” sets a tense and gloomy mood about the city, leaving the reader feeling depressed and angry. Blake also uses a very dark and depressing tone, which forces the reader to act out the poem in a very negative way, reflecting the way Blake is speaking out the poem himself. He also creates a very dull and depressing atmosphere, which represents the atmosphere on the streets and in the homes of the suffering people. Wordsworth and Blake both have very different opinions on London.
Wordsworth, a visitor to the city, sees London as a place of beauty and magnificence, whereas Blake, a citizen of London, sees it as a place of depression and suffering in which the government and monarchy are to blame. Another difference in the two poems is the techniques used to present their views on London. For example Wordsworth uses sibilance to convey across his excitement and admiration for the city of London, whereas Blake uses repetition and alliteration to show his profound anger and frustration over the widespread suffering.