Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth

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How does Wordsworth use personifications in the poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge"?

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Personification is a literary device whereby non-human things and objects are endowed with human characteristics. There are a number of such examples in "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September." Wordsworth uses personification to make the city of London come alive, to convey the sense of a city waking up to a bright, beautiful morning. Using personification allows us to get closer to that sense of wonder that Wordsworth must have felt when writing his poem. The city is no longer just an urban landscape; it has recognizably human characteristics that make us identify more closely with the poet and the remarkable scene unfolding before his eyes.

This City now doth, like a garment, wear 
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare . . .
The city, waking up to another day, puts on the beauty of the morning in the way that someone would put on their clothes.
The river glideth at his own sweet will: 
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; 
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
The river moves along at its own pace, free and flowing. It's early morning, and so most people are still asleep. Indeed, the houses themselves still seem to be sleeping. But Wordsworth wants to convey the impression of overwhelming vitality which he sees in the city in the early hours of the morning. So beneath the sleeping houses, it seems that the pulse of the city, its mighty heart, still beats. The stillness of the city speaks not of death; the city is truly alive and ready to wake up.

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