Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth
Start Free Trial

What is meant by "houses seem asleep" in Wordsworth's "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802"?

In "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802," Wordsworth is describing a quiet morning in London before everybody has woken up. The houses "seem asleep" because nobody is awake and moving yet.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this Petrarchan sonnet, Wordsworth describes the view of London from Westminster Bridge on a quiet morning in 1802 before the usually bustling city is awake and moving. When Wordsworth notes that the houses of the city "seem asleep," he is referring to the fact that they are unmoving, untroubled, and do not seem to look the way they usually look during the day, when the streets are filled with people, and there is business being conducted around the houses.

Wordsworth describes the quietude of the morning as being akin to a "garment" which lies over the city. This is obviously unusual and an unusual view of London for the poet, who feels a "calm" which is extremely "deep" in being able to witness such a sight. He notes that the air of the city, which is usually rendered dark with industry, is actually "smokeless" at this point in time, as if the factories, like the houses, are also asleep and thus unable to pump their usual smoke and smog into the atmosphere. Viewed from this vantage point, although London is one of the largest and busiest cities in the world at this point in time, the city appears to be what it is: a habitat that is part of a wider natural setting, giving way at its borders to the sky and to the fields around.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial