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Composed On Westminster Bridge And London

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2096 words Published: 18th Apr 2017

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William Wordsworth was born on 7th April, 1770 in Cumberland, in the Lake District. Blake was born to four other siblings; Richard, John, Christopher and Dorothy, his only sister. Wordsworth was taught poetry by his father, who was seldom around him and his siblings, however he did learn of many different poets, including Shakespeare. Wordsworth visited London when he was 18 and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings at sunrise. Wordsworth began to work on his poetry, which focused heavily on nature and landscapes, something he enjoyed observing in London. He also worked largely with ‘cultivated individualism’ a concept that embraced freedom and revolution, something Wordsworth would allude to in his poem, Composed Upon Westminster Bridge. Wordsworth became a huge figure and one of the leaders of the Romantic movement in English poetry. In 1807, Wordsworth published ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, a poem that was unusual from his normal style of writing, as it focused more on the industrial side of London, as opposed to the natural side.

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William Blake was born on 28th November 1757 in London. He had six other siblings, however two of which died at a young age. Blake was home schooled by his parents, and despite being religious – a theme which featured quite heavily in his poetry – he and his family removed themselves from the traditional church. In 1794 Blake published the poem ‘London’, his own negative tribute to the town he was born in. Blake also illustrated the poem himself, as he did with many others. After living in Sussex for a while, Blake moved back to London in 1804, where his illustrations began to grow and develop. Similar to Wordsworth, Blake became a leading figure in the Romanticism movement in England during the second half of the eighteenth century.

The poem also utilizes strict iambic pentameter, it contains 14 lines in the whole sonnet – something Wordsworth was known for using – with ten syllables in each line. These lines are then split into an octave to start with and a sestet as the second stanza. The octave represents early morning London – ‘beauty of the morning’ ‘smokeless air’ – whereas the sestet represents Wordsworth’s observation of his natural surroundings – ‘valley, rock, or hill’ and ‘the river glideth’. The poem also has a strong rhyme scheme, throughout. Midway through the second stanza, the narration of the poem switches briefly from third person to first person, to give a more personal sense of Wordsworth’s feelings. This helps the reader to understand Blake’s own feelings, while also creating positive, and calm, feelings inside the reader. Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ represents Wordsworth attempting to show the beauty of London, ‘earth hath not anything to show more fair’, ‘sight so touching’, ‘more beautifully steep’. This may be a over exaggeration of London’s actually physical representation, due to his lack of time around the area. Wordsworth is prone to using hyperbole in this poem, ‘Dull would he be of soul’ and ‘a sight so touching in it’s majesty’. Wordsworth uses a very royal theme in the poem, ‘in it’s majesty’, this represents a strong regal sense to London, possibly alluding to the residence of the monarchy in London. The word ‘glittering’ shows a sense of calm, but also suggests a royal jewel, connecting it to the word ‘majesty’. The phrase ‘smokeless air’ is used to describe the clean atmosphere around London, this is probably because Wordsworth was observing London very early in the morning, before the factories had been opened up and smog and pollution had been pumped into the air, ‘the beauty of the morning; silent, bare’, also shows this as the sky is even cloudless. The phrase, ‘like a garment, wear’ uses personification to represent the delicate nature of Westminster, but could also be used to show that possibly the beauty of the morning is disguising a darker nature. ‘Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie’, this one-worded list builds pace and shows the sheer variety of establishments in place. The poem seldom uses negative language, however a small amount has been used, ‘Dull would he be of soul’, this shows how negatively Wordsworth feels about individuals not getting the opportunity to see Westminster. However, positive language is used quite frequently throughout to show the strength of London, the fact that it is an economic powerhouse at the time, ‘Touching in it’s majesty’ and ‘mighty heart’, both of these give the image of Westminster being very powerful. ‘Dear God!’, this exclamation is used to add power to the short and sharp phrase, making it more poignant, but also gives another sense of strength, almost that someone is reeling from the strength and beauty of the surroundings.

Few later poets have managed anything like it for condensed power.

Blake’s ‘London’ takes on a completely different tone to Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’. He views it amazingly negatively, as though London is almost an illness, a plague, that is spreading throughout the country. The reason for Blake’s feelings is most likely due to the fact that he lived in London for a great deal of his young life, and probably associated negative feelings from his childhood to London, whereas Wordsworth has a more positive outlook on the area as he only spent a short while in London, he also only describes it early morning, before industry was able to begin polluting the town. Blake’s London is split into four stanzas, as it is a lyric poem, with an A/B rhyme scheme. The first two stanzas, represent what Blake has seen of London, but the last two show the further deterioration of London, throwing in some symbols of hope and how even they can be corrupted by the evil of London. The phrase, ‘mind-forged manacles’, is a very central theme throughout the poem, it represents the overwhelming theme of unwarranted control over the people of London, the ‘mind-forged’ suggest that the control over them, originates inside of their mind and prevents them from even thinking what they want to. Blake also uses alliteration in his poem, ‘mind-forged manacles’, the alliteration also helps keep a constant tone and pace for the poem. Alliteration is also used for ‘soldier’s sigh’, the word ‘sigh’ summarizes the negative tone of the poem and once again keeps a constant feel when reading. Assonance is used successfully by Wordsworth, in the ‘a’ sound in the third stanza, this ties together the similar sounding words to create an ongoing negative tone. The poem suggests Blake sees the rapid urbanisation in Britain at the time as a dangerous force, it is also pessimistic and shows that it is without hope for the future. The phrase ‘Blood runs down palace-walls’, this is a clear allusion to the French Revolution, the speaker feels that the people of London will also revolt. ‘Blackened Church’, Blake feels this makes a mockery of the love and care the church is supposed to offer, and that the people of London are so corrupt, as not to even look after the church, a symbol of hope. The word ‘Hapless’ is used as a means to convey the unfortunate sense of London and how wretched it is. The phrase ‘infant’s cry of fear’ is very emotionally invoking as an infant is also shown as a symbol of hope and innocence, so if an infant is somewhere crying, it shows that something is very wrong.

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As Wordsworth seldom uses negative language in his poem, Blake seldom uses positive language in his, however the word ‘youthful’ I feel creates a sharp contrast to the following negative word ‘harlot’. The word ‘youthful’ almost represents something innocent and beautiful, however a harlot shows a corrupted young woman, the opposite of innocent. Repetition is used in both ‘London’ and ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’, in ‘London’, ‘marks of weakness, marks of woe’, it is used to negativity of the people of London and their restricted minds. The word ‘marks’ used twice represents the physical marks of pain, caused by dangerous, back-breaking labour and helpless poverty, but also the mental damage that has been inflicted upon them, by the evils other around them commit. This will also be shown by the line ‘mind-forged manacles’, showing the restriction of people’s minds and how censored and controlled even their thoughts are. However, repetition in Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ is also used, ‘Never, ne’er’, this repetition, despite ‘never’ being a rather negative word, it is used here to reinforce Wordsworth’s positive emotions about London, the word ‘never’ is then followed by ‘beautifully’, one of the most powerful positive words. Wordsworth is in awe of London ‘Dear God!’, the tone of his poem is one of respect and adoration as if London is the pinnacle of modern cities. ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’. In contrast the tone of Blake’s poem is solemn. The poem starts with a criticism of laws relating to ownership. The ‘chartered Thames’ is a bitter reference to the way in which every aspect in London is owned, even the river. The two poems different tones contrast how Blake’s is a pessimistic warning poem whereas Wordsworth is a lot more positive showing the beauty of London, ‘how the chimney-sweeper’s cry – every blackening church appals’. ‘This city now doth like a garment wear the beauty of the morning’. The tone tells you what the poem is about. Both poems, context aside, present a sense of royalty. Wordsworth uses the word ‘majesty’ while Blake uses ‘down palace-walls’. Both of each of the poem’s last lines summarize the overall tone of the poems. ‘And all that mighty heart is lying still’, this is the last line of Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’, it summarizes the beauty and power of London that Wordsworth saw in it. The word ‘mighty’ shows the majesty and royalty of the town. Whereas, ‘And blights with plagues the marriage hearse’, however this last line summarizes the darkness and evil of the poem. The word ‘plagues’ represents London to almost be a sickness that is spreading outwards to envelop everything in it’s path.

So, generally, the major respect in which both poems are connected is that they describe London in, what they feel is, a very truthful respect. It is very likely that both were being truthful at the time of writing. Blake’s negativity and disgust probably stems from having lived in the area for too long and having a large amount of time to scope the negativity that lay all around, however Wordsworth had only seen London for a short period of time, therefore he only observed it selectively. The major difference between them though, is that Blake describes London as a ‘plague’ whereas Wordsworth describes it as ‘majesty’ and ‘mighty heart’, referring to it’s connections as the centre of the country. Both poets also use clever grammar devices to enhance the mood of the reader, for example Wordsworth uses personification, ‘like a garment, wear’, this helps the reader to know how fragile the area is, while Blake uses repetition, ‘marks of weakness, marks of woe’, this helps show how damaged the people of London really are. Generally, I prefer Wordsworth’s ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ over Blake’s ‘London’. I prefer the innocence I feel Wordsworth conveys by showing all the positive aspects of Westminster as opposed to Blake’s harsh negativity and brutality about the antagonistic secret nature, regarding especially the industrial nature of London, that is lacking from ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’.


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