"Lines composed upon Westminster bridge, Sept. 3 1802" and "London"

Categories: William Blake

These two poems show very different views of London. "Lines composed upon Westminster Bridge", written by William Wordsworth, describes London in detail. He captures the beautified city and expresses the calmness of the morning. William Blake, who lived around the same time, wrote "London" which expresses the chaotic and corrupt side of London.

Wordsworth describes the city in much detail. "A sight so touching in its majesty." The "Earth has not anything to show more fair." He expresses his true feeling about the city from where he sees it.

He goes on to personify the city and describe how it " doth like a garment wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare". He has captured the city in the morning when it is quiet and in a sense almost naked with no one yet bustling through the streets, there are no fume engulfed traffic jams or shouting street salesmen. There is only the calmness of the morning.

All the man made objects and buildings, such as "ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie open unto the fields and to the sky".

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The man built objects remain where they were left not yet being used by Londoners.

The atmosphere is sublime, the sun is just rising and soaking everything in its light, "Never did sun more beautifully steep" "Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!" the scene is so peaceful he is feeling peace within himself.

The natural body of the city, the river, is gliding in its own free way, the way it wants "the river glideth at its own sweet will" Its free will is moving it naturally through the city as though it were the countryside.

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The river has also been personified to give more emphasis of its freedom. He is so overwhelmed by the atmosphere and calmness of the city. "Dear God! The very houses seem asleep" everywhere he sees is not yet awake, again he has personified an object to give it more emphasis.

His final line is describing the city as a "mighty heart" that is "lying still". The capital, like the giant mechanism of a heart is just lying still.

The aim from the poem is to describe the amazement he sees when looking over a massive city and seeing the calmness. He wants to express to others how peaceful and calm it makes him feel and pass that feeling on to the reader.

The first two stanzas describe what the city is like, and what he sees around him. The sestet after this shows his personal response to what he has already described and how he feels about the city.

Blake presents a much more depressing, morbid scene of London describing the corruptness of everything in the city. He is describing the attitudes and goings on in London that are normally never spoken about, the things which people may or may not know but which go on behind closed doors. A lot of repetition is used, unlike in Wordsworth's poem, to give emphasis to the points which he is trying to make. "In every cry, of every Man, In every Infants cry of fear, In every voice..." he only lists one example in each line but gives the effect of a lot of crying and pain and fear.

He speaks in a first hand account throughout the poem "I wander", "I hear", and "I meet". By speaking in the present tense it makes the reader more inclined to think it is going on here and now however old the poem may be.

By beginning the first line with "I wander thro' each chartered street" It makes it easier to visualise what he is describing because it is a first hand account. The chartered streets are each set out neatly and ordered, "the chartered Thames" is also very regulated and gives the impression of it being divided and bought and sold.

He notices a mark in "every face I meet "Marks of wisdom, marks of woe." This evidence of scars of weakness and great sadness in faces contrasts with the peaceful and happy atmosphere Wordsworth gave to London.

He hears "mind-forg'd manacles" in cry's of "every man" and "Infant's cry of fear" he is referring to the fake, made up manacles that he cannot actually hear but knows that something is wrong.

His repetition of cry continues to the next stanza where he talks of "chimney-sweepers" which are doing the dirty, hardest jobs and suffering for their work, an example of the depressed and morbid London.

The description of the "blackening church" shows the soot taking over London and the church becoming almost evil, involved with dirty money or becoming corrupt. Even the church is starting to lose its faith.

Another large part of London life is also criticised, "the hapless soldier's sigh Runs in blood down palace walls." Fighting is going on around the palace but going unnoticed, the palace is oblivious to the corruptness going on inside its own walls.

He contrasts the third stanza with the 4th final stanza, not only the church and palace and the huge industries of London are corrupt the streets are also. "Thro' the midnight streets I hear How the youthful harlot's curse" there is a lot of prostitution going on in the streets of London but was something that wasn't spoken about. The STD's, or "curses" "blasts the new born infants tear". Implying that prostitutes pass on STD's and then these in turn get passed on to the newborn babies of those who have any disease. Another example of a corrupt system in London, which now effects the innocent. "And blights with plagues the marriage hearse." Sleeping with prostitutes while married destroys the whole point of marriage and then if the partner becomes pregnant another generation is born into corruption. The use of hearse shows how marriage is carried away as though dead and not taken seriously.

The extremely regular meter helps put across the ordered ways he describes the beginning. These chartered and regulated ways soon give way to the examples of how corruption is slowly taking over the whole city, the government, the church, the palace and the streets.

The first poem also used a regular meter, which, also worked well in describing the city peacefully and happily.

The two poems contrast greatly in not what they describe but how they describe it. Wordsworth has a much more calming poem, which in effect leaves the reader much more calm and peaceful. This is unlike Blake's who describes so much evil and chaos going on, his poem leaves the reader much more depressed and almost disgusted with how the people and industries of London are behaving.

Their use of language is also quite different, Wordsworth's entire poem is full of description of "beauty", "bright and glittering" and full of "splendour". He uses very grand descriptions of everything unlike the descriptions of Blake, which are quite harsh and blunt, "blasts the new born infants tear", "blights with plagues" and "runs in blood down palace walls."

I did enjoy both poems but preferred the first, "Lines composed upon Westminster" because of its use of more soothing, happy descriptions of London. It made me feel much more relaxed after reading it whereas "London" left me feeling slightly more depressed and sad. Although this may have been the aim of Blake's poem I preferred Wordsworth's poem because it was much calmer.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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"Lines composed upon Westminster bridge, Sept. 3 1802" and "London". (2017, Oct 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/lines-composed-upon-westminster-bridge-sept-3-1802-and-london-essay

"Lines composed upon Westminster bridge, Sept. 3 1802" and "London" essay
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