This essay is a comparison on the way in which Wordsworth and Blake present their views on London in the two poems, “Upon Westminster Bridge” and “London”. There are similarities and differences between the two poems, in both the poets views and the way those views are presented.
The first poem, “London”, describes a very negative view of the city of London, Blake uses language with many negative connotations, “blood, … woe, … infant’s cry, … hearse”, this vocabulary reflects Blake’s negative views of the humanity of London as he is walking its streets. Yet, it is not just of London that his views are negative, his views of marriage appear so also, “The mind-forged manacles I hear”, Blake has used the metaphor of chains to illustrate marriage as a prison, one chosen by oneself, “mind forged”. Particularly black and depressing is the final stanza, in which Blake describes the story of a young girl, “How the youthful harlot’s curse blasts the new born infant’s tear”. This miserable story of a prostitute and her illegitimate child represent the poet’s views of the misery and melancholy humanity of London.
The Second poem “Upon Westminster Bridge” is a complete contrast to Blake’s; it is a wholly positive image of London. It seems written almost in response to London’s critics, “Dull would he be of soul who could pass by…” the first stanza describes London’s “majesty” and ridicules those who cannot see it. Within the poem, Wordsworth describes the beauty of the view, from Westminster Bridge, across the rest of London, in the early morning tranquillity, before the rest of the city begins it’s day and shatters the piece, “Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!” the poem is a celebration of this calm and tranquillity.
Wordsworth is famous for writing about country landscapes, his most famous poem, “Daffodils”, describes the tranquillity of a summer’s day. Because of this, by writing about London in the same way, it changes the reader’s view of London and causes them to consider whether it is indeed as beautiful as described, “The beauty of the morning”.
“London” is not concerned with the scenery of London, rather the humanity within it, and the human conditions with in London. He is concerned with everybody in London, “In every cry of every man, in every infants cry of fear, in every voice, in every ban”. Blake writes the poem as an “insider’, walking the streets, “I wander thro’ each chartered street”. The term chartered, just adds to Blake’s negative view, as he is only describing the poor conditions on the recognised main streets and not even the squalid back streets. “London”, is written to describe to those unfamiliar with London, the poor conditions endured by everybody within.
“Upon Westminster Bridge” is different, it is written by an ‘outsider’, possibly to highlight the good points of London which may be missed by those living in squalor inside.
While the view’s presented are completely different, similarities can be seen in the way they are presented. Both poems are written to a regular rhythm and rhyming scheme, “London” to the ABAB rhyme scheme and “… Westminster…” to the ABBA scheme. Both poems make extensive use of metaphors, similes and imagery to describe London, “the hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood down palace walls”, “This city doth like a garment wear”. The metaphors are used to give the reader an insight into both poets view’s of London, be they negative or positive. By using these metaphors, the poets are able to give us a clearer picture of their views by using metaphors with positive or negative connotations.
The structure of poems is similar also, building to a crescendo as they conclude. The first poem gets even more unhappy and depressive the further is gets through, culminating in “And blights with plagues the marriage hearse”, an extremely negative image to conclude the poem and leave the reader in no doubt of Blake’s harsh view of the humanity of London. “… Westminster…” depicts Wordsworth’s growing passion for London as it progresses, as illustrated by the punctuation and use of ! “… deep! … Dear God! … lying still!” This represents the poet’s will to let outsiders see the beauty of London and not dismiss it as a busy noisy city, it also represents his urgency to appreciate the scene before the calm is shattered and everybody awakes and begins their daily lives.
Whilst the views of the two poets are markedly different, both are presented with exquisite use of imagery and beautiful language, successful in giving the reader a clear impression of their views of London.