Composed on Westminster Bridge — an explanation for GCSE English Literature Podcast

5 April 2010

Composed on Westminster Bridge; an audio explanation by Francis Gilbert

“Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” is a sonnet by William Wordsworth describing London, viewed from one of the bridges over the Thames, in the early morning. It was first published in 1807.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:

Dull would he be of soul who could pass by

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie

Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;

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

The river glideth at his own sweet will:

Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Dorothy Wordsworth, in her Journal July 31, 1802, described the scene seen by her and her brother thus:-

“It was a beautiful morning. The city, St. Paul’s, with the river, and a multitude of little boats, made a most beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge. The houses were not overhung by their cloud of smoke, and they were spread out endlessly, yet the sun shone so brightly, with such a fierce light; that there was something like the purity of one of nature’s own grand spectacles.”

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