This week's theme: songs of the city
(Poem #462) Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
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 splendour, 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!
Today's poem makes an interesting contrast with the (presumably written in the same year) "London 1802" - the 'fen of stagnant waters' is nowhere in evidence, replaced instead by a sight 'touching in its majesty'. The city dweller in me notes that Wordsworth has exhibited his usual facility at both observation and description. The 'silent, bare' beauty of the morning, the city steeped in the early morning sun, the deep sense of calm, are as real, and as worthy of the poet's pen, as any babbling brook or forest glade. He also does a beautiful job of blending the images of the city and his own reactions to them into one organic whole, shifting voices effortlessly while never losing the central theme. And the last line is simply exquisite.  see my criticism of 'The Simplon Pass', poem #441 Notes: Dorothy Wordsworth in her Journal July 31, 1802, described the scene as she and her brother left London, early in the morning, for their month-long visit to Calais: "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." -- http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/poems/wordswor17.html [From the poem, I'd guess that it had rained the night before - m.] Links: We've run a number of Wordsworth's poems in the past - see the index at www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels And for previous poems that fit into the theme, or are just interesting to read alongside, see poem #5 poem #119 poem #154 poem #319 poem #361 poem #382 And doubtless many others -martin