Blake and Wordsworth have very different takes on London, of course. For Blake, the city is a kind of hell, in contrast to Wordsworth, who sees it as "a mighty heart" lying asleep. These differences have less to do with the city itself than with the nature of these poets'...
Blake and Wordsworth have very different takes on London, of course. For Blake, the city is a kind of hell, in contrast to Wordsworth, who sees it as "a mighty heart" lying asleep. These differences have less to do with the city itself than with the nature of these poets' poetic vision.
Wordsworth is a great observer. So often his poems are about a particular sight, or moment, which is given heightened effect in recollection. In the case of the "Westminster Bridge" poem, Wordsworth is characteristically conjuring the memory of a particular sight: a view of the city in early morning. The poem works to evoke the image of the sleeping city: "Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie / Open unto the fields, and to the sky; / All bright and glittering in the smokeless air." There is an artistic quality to these lines that both creates a mental image and evokes an emotional response. In fact, Wordsworth's purpose would see to be to recreate for the reader the conditions that led him to exclaim "ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!"
On the other hand, Blake's poem is not about a particular view of the city, but an account of the poet walking through it. The poet sees the city as symbolic of a kind of moral decay, and the poem is like a visionary revelation of this depravity. While Blake also uses concrete details, the nature of these details is not to aid recollection but to reveal moral truths. The "infants cry of fear," the chimney sweepers, the "blackening Church" all name particular aspects of London which the poet (the "I" of the poem) has witnessed, but their meaning is not in and off themselves but in their relationship to the symbolic. What the poet really experiences in his walk are the "mind forg'd manacles," the myriad ways people imprison themselves through sin. It's also significant that Blake ends with the "youthful Harlots curse," which perverts true sexual happiness.