Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of the title of William Wordsworth's poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802"?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,074 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Wordsworth generally wrote about nature, especially the nature around his home in the English Lake District. What's significant about the title, therefore, is that it signals that this poem will be about London, a major metropolis.

The words Westminster Bridge would tell people to expect a poem about London the same way that titling a poem "The Golden Gate Bridge" would indicate a San Francisco setting. Why, however, one might wonder, would a nature poet compose verse about an urban area?

Wordsworth writes this poem to communicate the way the city at dawn speaks to him. He finds a calm in watching it before it wakes up and begins to bustle deeper than what he has ever experienced before. He is so moved by the beauty and stillness of the this early morning scene that he wants to share with others that the city, in certain moments, can speak to him as deeply as nature. The three exclamation points emphasize how intensely moved he is:

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

beateach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write681 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

In his poem “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” William Wordsworth describes the image of London he and his sister saw as they traveled across the bridge early in the morning. She wrote about the sights in her journal, and it affected him deeply, which led him to write the poem. Therefore, he named the poem based on his experience, which justifies the title.

Although Wordsworth is known for his works about nature, this sonnet is written about the beauty London portrays on a late summer morning.

A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,

He goes on to describe the sights of the city including the ships, towers, and quiet buildings in the clear air. This is not the norm for the city during the day or during other times of the year. The city is bustling and noisy with smoke from chimneys billowing in the air. Therefore, it is important that Wordsworth date the poem, and describe his vantage point in its title. The poem describes the city in a different light than most observers were accustomed to.

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep

In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;

Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial