‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘London’ offer very different pictures of London. Give an account of both poems, bringing out the differences between the two poets views of London.

‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ by William Wordsworth. This poem is a sonnet, which is traditionally a love poem this shows even before you read the poem that William Wordsworth has definite like if not love for London.

In the first eight lines, the octet, William Wordsworth gives nothing but a positive view of London. For example, the first line says ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’. His view is that although there is a whole world full of beautiful sites to see, nothing comes close to London.

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William Wordsworth uses lots of positive adjectives to describe London in the early morning.

‘The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,

Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie.’

This quote suggests to me that he is describing London’s skyline, in the ‘beauty of the morning’ as he looks from Westminster bridge. Although it has to be said if he wasn’t looking at London in the morning, I doubt if he would be able to see any of London. This is because at around the 1800’s London’s skyline would be full of thick, suffocating black smoke this is due to all of the factories.

If you take what he wrote a few lines down ‘All bright and glittering in the smokeless air’ this quote proves my thoughts about being able to see the sky are most probably right.

The second part of the sonnet is called the sestet. In the last six lines William Wordsworth creates a quiet and calming mood that to me would suggest that London almost seems asleep. ‘Ne’er saw I,

never felt a calm so deep!’ To me this reinforces my thoughts about London being dormant; this to me is surprising considering London is always a busy place.

When Wordsworth talks about the river, ‘ The river glideth at his own sweet will’. He is giving the river human characteristics, personifying it. Also to me ‘own sweet will’ suggests calmness the fact that it flows at it’s own pace, gentle and tranquil.

When I read the lines ‘Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;/And all that mighty heart is lying still!’. I think of smokeless air, no bustling streets and people sleeping blissfully in their beds. I see the words ‘mighty heart’ meaning either London’s industry is lying still (the factories) and workers, or it means London it’s self ‘And all that mighty heart is lying still’. All of mighty London is lying still.

The poem ‘London’ by William Blake could not have been more opposing to William Wordsworth’s poem.

William Blake’s ‘London’ is clearly negative and by reading over the poem I found it impossible a single positive word. ‘London’ is made up of stanzas of which there are four.

In the first stanza the content is mainly about ‘work and woe’. ‘I wander through each chartered street,/Near where the chartered Thames does flow’. The first line mentions ‘chartered streets, this means streets owned by business and when he says ‘chartered Thames does flow’ that also means owned by business and corrupted by industry.

At the time of this poem the Thames would have definitely been owned by business, it would be full of boats, tugs and ships.

‘And mark in every face I meet’. This line suggests to me that the

word ‘mark’ could probably be replaced by scar. By that line I think he’s trying to say he sees the mark or scars of unhappiness and oppression, which is affecting every body.

‘Marks of weakness marks of woe’ to me this line reinforces my thinking about it meaning unhappiness, that is the mark on every ones face. The marks of ‘weakness’ and ‘woe’ suggest to me not only unhappiness but that the majority of the people in London at this point in time were under fed, underpaid and over worked. So much so that you could see how they felt you didn’t need to ask. This stanza revolves around sight.

In the second stanza there is a lot of repetition.

‘In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forged manacles I hear.’

On all the lines except the last one has the word ‘every’ at least once. The repetition of “every” just keeps stressing the point that the unhappiness affects every body and Blake is grouping the nations suffering together. On the first line Man has a capital ‘M’. The capitol “M” is there to give the word ‘man’ more status and universal meaning. On the second line William Blake does it again except with the word ‘Infant’ again the capital ‘I’ is there to give the word status and universal meaning.

But on the last line he says: ‘The mind-forged manacles’ this line to me represents that these mind concocted manacles make people believe that they are trapped. Either by work, poverty or possibly London it’s self. “Mind-forced manacles” shows how their lifestyle is forcing their imagination to be crushed.

In the third stanza the first letters of each line spell out ‘hear’.

‘How the chimney-sweeper’s cry

Every blackening church appalls;

And the hapless soldier’s sigh

Runs in blood down palace walls’

To me the whole stanza says: hear ‘the chimney-sweeper’s cry’, hear the ‘blackening church appalls’ and hear the ‘soldier’s sigh’.

It seems to me that the poet is calling out the reader trying to make the reader hear what he hears. By the ‘blackening church appalls’ I think he means they ignore and maybe even accept the conditions for children.

In the last line Blake uses a metaphor: ‘blood down palace walls’. To me that seems like he’s blaming the monarchy for sending soldiers into war when there are bad enough problems at home. This also represents that the death of the soldier is on the conscience of the monarchy.

In the last stanza William Blake comments on what he hears in the midnight streets, and this is the ‘youthful harlots curse’. What he can hear is the sound of young prostitutes walking the streets at midnight. To me ‘blasts the new born infant’s tear’ suggests two things. Either the prostitutes passed on the diseases to the baby, or infant’s tear could be a form of imagery. Crying children is a typical reference to childhood innocence; and fact that the tear is ‘blasted’ suggests that the child’s innocence is taken away.

‘And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse’ I interrupt ‘blights’ with disease, and this disease plagues the marriage in two ways. The first being in the logical sense that the man and wife are both diseased and in an underlying way it means that the marriage has no more trust. ‘Marriage hearse’ to me suggests that the marriage is over. This also suggests that Blake blames the ‘harlots’ for the destruction of the institution of marriage.

There are only a few comparisons about these poems and these are that: they are both written by men, they are both about the same city and they are both set around the same time.

There are many differences between ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘London’ but there is only one similarity.

The main differences are the styles in which the poems are set out and the meaning of the poems. Also Wordsworth is a romantic, while Blake is a realist therefore there poems would reflect there views.

William wordsworth’s sonnet gives a sense of London being a loved one, while William Blake’s stanza format gives his poem a sense of regularity and monotony. So whilst Wordsworth has a positive poem with positive adjectives Blake is the complete opposite with all negatives.

The only similarity is the period of time that it’s set in and that’s the 1800’s.

I prefer William Blake’s ‘London’ as it is more realistic and true to how I picture London. When William wordsworth wrote his wrote his poem he wasn’t standing on Westminster bridge, he was in France. Given this point and the fact that he is more of a romantic I can understand how if he couldn’t remember fact he was more likely to think positive thoughts rather than negative.

It also must be said that in the 1800’s middle or upper class people wrote most if not all of the poems, and so most of the time there view of London would be entirely different to that of a working class Londoner. This is why I prefer William Blake’s poem.


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