Comparison of Westminster Bridge & The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth

Categories: Comparison

'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' was written describing the beauty of London early in the morning and it uses different styles including metaphors and personification. The poem uses archaic language. 'The Solitary Reaper' also uses archaic language, the person in the poem is wistful and wishes that he knew the girl and is affected deeply by this girl and her song.

The speaker in this poem is travelling over the Highlands, and he sees this beautiful sight and enjoys the mysterious song of the solitary reaper.

He is overwhelmed by the experience, by the beauty of what he sees and hears that he contemplates the option of just staying there, up on the top of the hill, looking down on the lush valley in the beauty of the entire situation. However, he does not do this; he simply stays for a few moments, long enough for him to remember the this event for the rest of his life, and then he goes on his way, with the girl's tune ringing in the back of his mind.

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While both these poems are descriptive, 'The Solitary Reaper' describes the lone figure of a girl who is reaping in the field alone over a passage of time, whereas 'Westminster Bridge' is describing the whole city at an early hour of one morning.

In both poems Wordsworth is a 'solitary' onlooker. In the poem 'The Solitary Reaper' Wordsworth is alone when everyone has left the countryside except for him and this solitary girl singing in the field that he mentions in line one:

"Behold her single in the field".

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In 'Westminster Bridge' Wordsworth is alone walking on Westminster Bridge enjoying the peace of the morning. The poem does not state that he met anyone.

In both poems Wordsworth uses language and an interesting choice of words and sentences to express his thought. In 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' he personifies the city: Metaphors become irreplaceable mechanisms to imagery. The lines:

'This city now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning'

denotes that morning is like a cloak draping the city with its magnificence. Wordsworth brings the very city alive as he personifies the river and even the sleeping houses.

'The very houses seem asleep'

The city is quiet and 'gets on' with what it has to do.

In 'The Solitary Reaper' there is a girl working hard reaping in the fields that is also quietly getting on with what she has to do. This task was usually done in groups as it is back breaking work so it was an unusual sight to see a solitary reaper. The job was no less back breaking even if it was done in a group. If so there would be less to do as it would be split up between the groups. In addition the friendship of the group would make it more bearable.

In both poems Wordsworth has things that he wants to find out. In "The Solitary Reaper' he wants to find out what type of song she is singing:

"Will no-one tell me what she sings?"

"Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far off things, and battles long ago"

Maybe it is about something that happened years ago. Then he goes on to think:

"Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matters of today?

Some natural sorrow, loss or pain,

That has been, and may be again?"

Perhaps she is singing about something or someone she has lost.

Both poems are poems of praise. 'The Solitary Reaper' praises the voice of a young girl. Wordsworth likes her voice so much that he compares it to that of a cuckoo-bird in the Arabian Desert, in the lines where Wordsworth says;

No nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

Of travellers in some shady haunt

Among Arabian sands

Wordsworth is alluding to the fact that nightingales, which are urban birds, are heard by the travelling caravan only when they are drawing close to their destination. They only live in places where people live, so when the travellers 'among Arabian sands' hear the nightingales' call, this means that the caravan is 'almost there.'

The poem then continues to praise her voice that if you were in the Hebrides there is no sound more welcoming than that of the cuckoo-bird.

In stanza two the poet is saying that nothing can ever compare or match this voice which he hears anywhere or anytime.

"A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard

In spring time from the cuckoo bird

Breaking the silence of the seas

Among the farthest Hebrides"

'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' is praising the city silence and beauty rather than a singing girl and her beauty,

"The beauty of the morning; silent bare...

Never did the sun more beautifully steep...

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!"

a hidden theme of nature peers through the descriptions of a sleeping city.

Wordsworth grew up in the Lake District and 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' is characteristic of his love for solitude and is set in the early morning when there is no bustle and noise. He is in awe at the scenic beauty of the morning sun radiating from London's great architectural marvels.

"Valley, Rock and hill"

and couldn't believe that London, the capital city could really look beautiful. London was so very different to all his experiences and thoughts that he was overwhelmed and thus uses direct speech.

He has described everything that he saw and has given the poem a more silent and faraway sound

"The beauty of the morning; silent bare...

This shows the amazing beauty and still silence that he felt and saw from Westminster Bridge.

The word 'majesty' in line three portrays 'This City' as anointed by God to represent his kingdom on Earth. Dead in spirit would one be if he of she was not moved or appreciated its beauty. The use of the word 'temple' further down? Wordsworth could have written church. This seems written to enhance the belief that the city was chosen by God.

In both poems there is a regular theme of memory:

In 'The Solitary Reaper it says,

"The music in my heart I bore,

Long after I could hear no more."

In the other poem, 'Westminster Bridge' it says,

"Ne'er saw I a sight more beautiful"

There is a shared theme in both poems of expressed feelings.

Only in the last four lines of 'Westminster Bridge' Wordsworth involves himself.

"Ne'er saw I"

In 'The Solitary Reaper' Wordsworth also involves himself nearer to the end,

"Will no-one tell me"

"I saw her singing at her work"

Rather than to describe what he saw he describes the view that can be seen early in the morning.

In both poems, though the poet only stayed for a short while yet there images are engraved upon his heart forever. He uses very romantic words and his style is emotional

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Comparison of Westminster Bridge & The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Comparison of Westminster Bridge & The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth essay
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