The two poems describe London, but “Upon Westminster Bridge” describes the city from a tourist’s point of view whereas “In a London Drawing-room” talks about the city from a Londoners point of view.
The title “Upon Westminster Bridge” gives the reader a first impression, which is that the poem is positive and written by an outsider who is experiencing London for the first time. The speaker uses the preposition “Upon” which conveys the idea that the speaker is describing the city from a birds eye view which would be amazing and beautiful however he misses all the small blemishes the city has which gives it a unnatural feeling.
The poems subject is London and concentrates on the look and features of London and what someone would feel during their first visit. The poet makes a point by describing the sky very elaborately. “Never did the sun more beautifully steep” which gives the impression that London may be special because the sun has chosen London to shine upon.
Central to the poem is the idea that London is particularly mellow and that its unfazed by what may be going on around it “Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep” which suggests that outside London this deep calmness ceases to exist. When reading the poem it appears that the speaker is describing the city in the morning although what strikes me as strange is the fact that the speaker describes the city as “morning, silent, bare” and also says that there is “smokeless air”.
Either this is simply an exaggerated perspective of the morning or the poet may be describing the city from his knowledge of the city and how he imagines it to be.
In the octet the speaker appears to be full of amazement for the city “earth has not anything to show more fair” and shows his fascination and amazement by describing London like a temple or how heaven is depicted in fairy tales. However in the sestet he develops more excitement, which is shown by all the exclamation marks such as “Deep!” and “Still!”. The exclamatory effect “Dear God!” could be interpreted literally and could further suggests that he thinks he is in heaven.
In the sestet the speaker compares his surroundings to the area he knows best. However he is trying to compare man made features with concrete nouns such as “towers, domes, theatres” in the octet with natural features like “valley, road or hill” in the sestet. This doesn’t work and this change in setting appears to amaze him. Towards the end of the poem he goes on to describe the houses “The very houses seem asleep” which suggests that he is the only person awake and is looking upon everyone else but when the speaker proceeds to say “heart is lying still” it further emphasizes this idea and suggests that maybe everything is frozen and the idea of the city being a human is taken literally.
The speaker adopts a tone, which is filled with amazement and so creates a sense of excitement; this is done in two ways. The first being the repetition of “Never” which emphasizes his amazement and wonder for the city compared to everything else he has seen. The second is the insistent use of rhyme in the sestet. This also emphasizes the beauty of the city because in the sestet the poem uses very smooth rhymes. The listing of several major structures “Ships, towers, domes”, these nouns emphasizes the idea that there is an endless supply of things to see.
He also uses words like “So” to take phrases to an extreme like “So touching” and “So keep”. The use of words such as “magnificent” and “glamour” create an upbeat tone and indicate once again that there is something special about the city and maybe that the city is more than just a city. The expression that the city wears a garment creates the impression that the city may also have a heart and soul, like a human. This is backed up by several personifications of the city such as “houses seem asleep” and “River glideth”.
The mood is full of wonder and amazement and the fact that it is set in the morning makes it “a calm so deep”. “The beauty of the morning” emphasizes the idea how beautiful the speakers surroundings are and maybe the silence in the morning is emphasized because the speaker knows that this silence will be broken in a few hours time. The beautiful and calm weather reflect the central idea of London being a calm and beautiful city in the speaker’s opinion. “Bright and glittering” underlines this idea of beauty and “smokeless air” shows the calm and almost perfect mood however this is unrealistic because no city is really “smokeless” at any time.
The poem takes form of a Sonnet and the speaker uses a precise layout with an octet and a sestet. I think the layout plays a key part in bringing the speakers message across as it provides structure to the poem. The rhyme in the poem further more creates this sense of everything going smoothly and flowing well.
The poem’s strength lies in its wealth of imagery. There are two types of imagery, which I can pinpoint. The first being direct images which are directly related to the words the speaker has chosen, “towers, domes, theatres and temples”. The speaker also creates open imagery such as “Earth has not anything to show more fair” from which the reader can picture all kinds of things. The speaker bombards the reader with images by using short sentences, which are packed with powerful and descriptive words. However the speaker also uses longer sentences to convey messages such as how amazing London is.
Unlike “Upon Westminster Bridge” the other poem “In a London Drawing-room” has a negative title, which gives the reader a negative impression. The preposition “In a” creates the sense of claustrophobia and entrapment which is very depressing. The title also immediately informs the reader that the speaker is someone who lives in London or at least has extensive knowledge of the city because it is written from a “Drawing-room” point of view writes the poem.
The poem focuses around the speakers view from a drawing room from where she describes what she sees and her thoughts about it as well as the city and its people. The poem starts with her view of the opposite houses, “The houses opposite” which she describes very graphically “Cutting the sky” and then goes on to describe the people of the city “unmarking at the passers by” and then describes the city in general “cabs, carriages” and lastly the world which is described as “one huge prison-house”. The way the speaker has structured the poem is very impressive and the fact that the speaker has used this zoom effect where she describes everything on a small scale and then broadens out creates an impressive effect and sucks the reader into what the speaker is feeling.
The speaker adopts a very negative attitude to her surroundings and starts of by describing them to the reader “The sky is cloudy, yellowed by smoke” and then talks about how ugly and plain her surroundings are “Cutting the sky” and “No bird can make a shadow”. The speaker seems to feel entrapped (as the title tells us) and she seems very depressed about what she is describing. She exaggerates what she sees however undoubtedly it is what she sees and feels inside “Where men are punished at the slightest cost”. The speaker uses sentence structure to enforce ideas like when the speaker describes the “Long line of wall” she uses very long sentences.
The mood of the poem is very depressing and as a reader if you are feeling upbeat and then indulge in the poem one can come out feeling unhappy and a sense of incompleteness. The most striking thing is that there appears to be so much to see and yet it is all plain and not worth a look and even birds can’t have an effect on this, “No bird can make a shadow as it flies” which is a very depressing and unimaginable thought as a bird will literally always make a shadow and if someone feels that an environment can’t even recognize the beauty of a bird then something is seriously wrong.
The poem is also crammed with imagery of all sorts, a reader can create his/her own images from the poem or be led by the speakers precise choice of words. Even though the surroundings are described as plain and repetitive the poem still creates an amazing feeling with sentences such as “in multiplied identity” which states that there are so many things and yet everything is exactly the same and maybe just mass-produced.
The idea of the world being “one huge prison-house” is a scary and thankfully unrealistic prospect. However it makes the reader think about controlled environments, like London, where everything seems already determined and is simply one big network of things, which doesn’t have any individuality and creativity, attached to them. The idea of a “Lap of life” is a great effect as it further emphasizes a sense of repetition and predictability. This is yet another depressing thought which highlights the lack of individuality in London.
The poem has no rhyme, which is well suited as there is nothing smooth and flowing about the poem but it is a set of well thought out thoughts on the city, which are depressing.
One impression I got while reading the poem was the possibility that the poet was describing the effects the city has had on her career as a poet and her frustration with the people of London because they didn’t recognize her individuality and acknowledge her poetry. I got this impression, as I can’t imagine there is any possible way that someone can hate a city and its inhabitants, so much.
The poem ends in a very striking fashion and plays a major part in the poem although it could be overlooked very easily. The sentence “With lowest rate of colour, warmth and joy” forms the perfect closure for the poem as it emphasizes the idea that London is utter hell and that there is nothing there which is even remotely worth seeing or experiencing. This sentence sums up everything the poem has talked about and ends the poem as it started. Colours are very powerful in expressing feelings and emotions and if someone describes his/her feelings as being “lowest rate of colour” then they must be very depressed. Finally the speaker says that there is no warmth and joy, which is impossible as there is joy and warmth almost in every part of the world.
The poems have a huge difference in opinion and content which seems very strange as both poems focus on the same topic. It is strange to think that two poets can interpret a place in such a different way and to think that there are so many perspectives on situations and settings. I don’t feel that either poem has more to offer than the other as they are both completely different and both have different qualities. However several things in both poems struck me. In “Upon Westminster Bridge” I liked the image it created for me which was of a human being and that the author was using London to actually describe someone. In the second poem “In a London Drawing-room” I liked the way the speaker plucked out all the faults in London and the idea of “multiplied identities” as well as “one huge prison house” which I consider to be an impressive idea.