Representations of London in William Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” and William Blake’s “London”. A Comparison

Seminar Paper, 2019

6 Pages, Grade: bestanden


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 The representation of London in Woodsworth’s Composed upon Westminster bridge, September 3, 1802

3 The representations of London on Blake’s London

4 The Comparison of both poems

5 Conclusion

6 Literature

1 Introduction

The comparison of the poems “Composted upon Westminster bridge, September 3, 1802” by William Woodsworth and the poem “London” by William Blake arises from their common ground about the topic London but also the discrepancy between their perspectives of London. Both artists show London from different point of views and state of minds which creates a London being accomplished. Additional to the presentation and comparison of the city London, the authors intentions same as their authenticity must be discussed and compared.

2 The representation of London in Woodsworth’s Composed upon Westminster bridge, September 3, 1802

The sonnet “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” by William Woodsworth was written and dedicated to the city of London in 1802. It deals with the changes of the industrialization, which Woodsworth clearly demonstrated his aversion for and the beauty the city contains although. The poem catches a moment in the morning, standing on the Westminster bridge of London during the time of the industrialization. Woodworth intention is to inspire the people to rediscover the hidden beauty of the metropolis London; which is hard to see during the time.

As common for a sonnet it consists of fourteen verses, which can be divided into four parts: three quatrains and one couplet in the end. The rhyme scheme is an embracing or enveloped rhyme which implies the rhyme pattern abba abba cdcdcd.

Wordsworth’s poem expresses the reflections of himself as he looked out of the city of London, which makes the lyrical I identical with Woodsworth himself (see Sutaryana: 7). The general atmosphere and feeling of the poem are highly positive: “Wordsworth declares that he has found the most beautiful scene on earth” (Sutaryana: 2). The hyperbole in the first line directly expresses that Woodworth can’t image a place more beautiful than the one he is in at this certain moment. He also mentions that only a “dull […] soul” (see l. 2) would not take its time to appreciate the “majesty” (l. 3) of the city. Furthermore, Woodsworth personifies the city of London to wear a garment representing the morning. It makes the morning responsible for its beauty and implies and shows that its nothing constant and that it changes – which refers to the daily transformation of the city containing different phases (see Sutaryana: 4). By connecting the beauty of the city to the morning only it criticizes the industrialization, which is clearly visible during the day when the machines are working, producing dust and smoke and noise.

In the following three verses the beauty of the city is described more detailed; the lyric I underlines the silence and bareness of the city. It seems important to do so because of the rareness of the possibility to hear nothing and see everything: because later on the day the “smokeless air” (l. 8) will soon be full of dust and smoke. In verses nine to eleven the presence of the rising sun is represented, which introduces the imagery of light. Also “He describes the sun lighting up hills, rocks and valleys, once again elements of the natural landscape that usually do not come to mind when we think of London.” (Sutaryana: 6) – but Woodworth connects the nature to the city and creates a relaxing atmosphere which also the speaker seems to be put in by watching the sunrise. This is shown by him getting very emotional: “I, never felt, a calm so deep!” (l. 11). Furthermore, the distinction between the city and the nature vanishes and they are mostly seen as one. The thirteenth verse contains the personification of houses being asleep, which emphasizes the calm and silent characteristic of the morning and also the implication of the process of waking up and being awake later on the day. In this verse the speaker also addresses God: “He cries out to God as if he has just recognized something astonishing he had not noticed before.” (Sutaryana: 7). Woodworth glorifies London here. In the last verse its again shown that Woodworth living the moment of the city lying still, such as his heart (l. 14).

3 The representations of London of William Blake’s London

The poem London by William Blake was written in 1794 during the time of the industrialization. It consists of four stanzas, which contain four lines each. The lines are rhymed in the pattern abab. It reveals Blakes true thoughts of the city London and shows the flipside to the positive London Woodworth wrote about. Blake lived in London nearly all his life, which he liked on the one hand but on the other hand he was “depressed by its darkness” (Damon 1988: 244). Therefore, his poem London reveals Blakes real feelings toward the metropolis London and the Londoner society. The lyric I, again, seems to be identical to the author himself. The first stanza already reveals the tone and the atmosphere of the poem, which can be described as highly sad because he talks about the people he meets walking down a street of London, which’s faces are described as having “weakness” and “woe” (see l. 4). The second stanza focusses on the inner thoughts of the lyric I about the people crossing his way: It is said that the sadness is a never-ending story of the Londoners lives because he hears the “mind forg’d manacles” (l.8) from the cry of the infants to the cry of the men. The actual representation of the whole society of London can be seen in the word “every” he is using many times in this stanza. The third stanza is probably the most critical as well as the most political because it represents the social class division and criticizes the church. Blake creates the one side of the society, which are clearly the ones suffering by mentioning the crying chimney sweepers and the hapless soldiers. Those being part of the lower class were forced into the dark sides of the industrialization while upper class, represented by the “palace walls” which are being accused of the suffering of the lower class. Further, the church is being criticized by calling it “blackening”. The church is not as the upper class responsible for the suffering but for not helping those who need help; as the church has the reputation to do. The final stanza compares and connects marriage to death by using the oxymoron of a “Marriage-hearse.” It criticizes marriage and even prostitution as the “youthful harlot” represent the young prostitute, which makes her baby cry. The poem London is known as a record of his depression (see Damon 1988: 244) so it catches all negative and depressive feelings of Blake towards London and its society in a very authentic way.

4 The Comparison of both poems

As both poems create a completely different London and have been written in completely different point of views or state of minds, they don't have a lot in common and differ a lot from each other. Starting from the most obvious William Blake concentrated on the negative Impacts of the industrialization focusing most on the impact of the Londoner society. Important to bear in mind is the fact that his depressive feeling had a huge impact on his poem’s atmosphere. Woodsworth however did not deny the industrialization having a negative impact on London or its society but he focused on that part of London which could be still seen as beautiful and that was London in the morning hours when the impacts of the industrialization could not be seen. Comparing both poems in terms of the sound you could see that Woodsworth created a London of silence while Blake even underlined sound as an important motive of his poem; he forces the reader to hear. Blake writes a lot about crying people and crying infants Which sets the suffering parts of the Londoners society to sound. Further, Woodsworth poem presents a London with fresh and smokeless air while in Blakes poem you could find the air full of dust and smoke by the inclusion of the chimney sweepers. Another motive which differs in both poems is the inclusion of people, while Blake talks nearly only about the people in London Woodsworth describes a moment where no people can be seen in London. Here you can see another difference because the time of the day where the poems take place is different: Woodsworth writes about London in the morning hours while Blakes poem takes place during the day or even in the evening. Focusing on the intentions of both authors it can be said that Woodsworth rather wanted to create something which makes it possible to escape the dark sides of London to rediscover the beauty of the city while Blakes intentions were firstly guided by his depression and secondly more critical or even political. Minding the content of both poems you receive a view on London from both perspectives which kind of completes the idea of London during the industrialization.

5 Conclusion

To put it in a nutshell, both poems were written during the time of the industrialization and both poems convey a different perspective on the metropolis during that time. But even if the perspectives of both poems differ a lot the motives are kind of the same. Thus, the footprint of the industrialization was noticed by both poets it was only the way of experiencing it which made the poems so different. As it is important to always mention and consider both sides of something, and as a poem is a piece of art it wouldn't be fair to call one more realistic or more authentic than the other. Both poems perfectly transpose their atmospheres and their feelings and are important pieces of the British literature.

6 Literature

Damon, Samual Foster. 1988 A Blake dictionary. The ideas and symbols of William Blake.

Sutaryana, K.A. Text-based Analysis in William Woodsworth’s poem composted upon Westminster Bridge, University Udayana.


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Representations of London in William Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” and William Blake’s “London”. A Comparison
Bielefeld University
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ISBN (eBook)
representations, london, william, wordsworth’s, composed, upon, westminster, bridge”, blake’s, london”, comparison
Quote paper
Lara Witt (Author), 2019, Representations of London in William Wordsworth’s “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” and William Blake’s “London”. A Comparison, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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