William Wordsworth is best known as the poet of the lakes, composing pastoral verses about the effect of rural tranquility on the human soul. One might, therefore, expect to find him out of his element on Westminster Bridge, in the heart of a great city.
However, Wordsworth's sonnet not only describes the sight that greets him from the bridge as "touching in its majesty," but evokes a city that shares the serenity of the countryside. The great buildings of the city are
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
He even says that he has never seen or felt "a calm so deep" even in the midst of the lakeland fells.
William Blake offers a more predictably Romantic view of the city. It is physically grim and grimy, with chimney sweeps, and "blackning" churches, but this physical squalor is only an outward manifestation of human misery.
Wordsworth does not specify what he thinks the people in the sleeping city are feeling. Probably they are all asleep, and in any case, they do not disturb the serenity of the scene that greets his eye. For Blake, however, the physical landscape is of secondary importance. What matters are the "Marks of weakness, marks of woe" in the faces of their people, and the cries he hears, which are evocative of slavery and despair.
It is difficult to believe that Wordsworth and Blake are describing the same city at approximately the same point in history. Blake mentions "midnight" in the final stanza, whereas Wordsworth's poem is bathed in the golden light of early morning. In addition to this, he is looking at the city from a godlike height, while Blake walks the streets, searching the careworn faces of the people. Even these differences do not account for the vast divergences between the two poems, which reflect the poets's very dissimilar outlooks and preoccupations.