In his poem “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” William Wordsworth reflects on the human ability to see, appreciate, and immerse in beauty no matter where it is found.
Wordsworth normally takes great delight and spiritual comfort in the scenes of nature, yet here he stands looking over a city and thinking that “Earth has not any thing to show more fair” than the scene before him. Only the dullest of souls could pass by without noticing. The city wears beauty “like a garment.” It is unusually silent, and its man-made structures lie open against the natural landscape and the sky.
All is “bright and glittering,” for the smoke has not yet begun to rise from the factories. The sun looks upon the city, steeping it in beauty just as much as it does with hills and valleys. The poet descends into a deep calm as he watches the river glide by. Everything, even “the very houses,” appears to be asleep, and the “mighty heart” of the city lies still.
Again, Wordsworth does not often reflect upon a city in this way. Normally, he looks upon an urban scene with distaste and thinks about how humans spoil nature with their “progress.” But in this poem, he finds beauty in the most unlikely place, a sleeping city. He takes the time to look, and he appreciates what he sees. He stands still and allows the beauty to enter into him as he enters into it, and in the midst of the city, he finds peace.