Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth

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What is the theme of "Composed upon Westminster Bridge"?

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The theme of "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" is that a city, before it awakens, can offer the same calm and serenity as a wholly natural scene.

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The theme of the poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" is that peace and tranquility can be found just as much or more in contemplating a cityscape as in contemplating a landscape in the country. To achieve this effect, the poet describes London in anthropomorphic terms, as if it were a human or even a godlike entity. Its clothing is the bright glittering beauty of the morning. For the moment, as Wordsworth observes, its "mighty heart is lying still." Its various components, such as its houses, "ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples" are devoid of the bustling of humans, which brings a preternatural hush and pause on the scene.

The loveliness that Wordsworth glimpses while standing on the bridge is observed in a moment out of time. This will not last long, however; soon the city's inhabitants will wake up and start a new day. The streets and buildings will come alive with swarms of people, and the air will fill with smoke. The "calm so deep" will be gone. The poet recognizes the transient nature of the scene as he proclaims that it is steeped in the sun's "first splendor" and wears "the beauty of the morning," which of course inevitably will give way to the noise and filth of the day. We realize, then, that unspoken but implied in the poem is Wordsworth's awareness that normally the city of London is anything but tranquil and that seeing it like this in all its wonder and magnificence, even if only for a short period of time, is such a splendid experience that he has to cry "Dear God!" in wonder and awe.

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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.

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Standing on Westminster Bridge, looking at London lying spread out on the horizon in the early morning sunrise, the speaker is moved by the beauty of the scene:

Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
Though Wordsworth usually finds his deepest serenity and solace in nature, here, near a city, he feels that he has never felt a calm in nature ("valley, rock, or hill") like the one he sees as the sun rises over the still city. He is emotionally moved by this sight because it is so unexpected.
The theme of this sonnet is that a city can offer the same peace and beauty as a wholly natural scene. This startles Wordsworth, who, as he describes in his long autobiographical poem The Prelude, usually thought of civilization as a corruption of the divine beauty of the natural world.
The poem illustrates the tenets of Romantic poetry that Wordsworth laid out in the preface to the groundbreaking poetry volume Lyrical Ballads: the poem is written in simple language and yet is lyrical in that it expresses the speaker's strong emotions.
The poem's theme is relatable to anybody who has been up and around in a city in the early morning before most of the residents are awake or businesses open, when a deep calm prevails.
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What is strange about this poem is that Wordsworth, a Romantic poet who focussed so much on the beauty of Nature and the countryside, takes as his topic the city of London and treats it with a distinctly Romantic flavour. This sonnet praises the quiet and shimmering beauty of London in the light of an early morning. Throughout the poem Wordsworth uses personification to present the city and its houses and so on as humans, emphasising the peace of tranquility of his view:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning...

The theme of this poem thus seems to be that cities can inspire similar feelings of "calm so deep" as Nature can, and in the final line, Wordsworth uses a paradox to present us with a final image of tranquility and silence:

And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Of course, hearts by their very nature never lie still, yet from his viewpoint, Wordsworth is able to imagine the "heart" of the country, London, "lying still" as he savours the peace and relaxation that the sight gives him. Such a poem allows us to see that Romanticism does not exclusively focus on Nature, and that similar themes can be found in poetry describing cities, which were normally seen as the anithesis of the simplicity and beauty to be found in nature.

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What is the central idea of the poem "Upon Westminster Bridge"?

In common with most Romantics, Wordsworth is deeply conscious of the existence of a primal force that runs through everything on earth, an organic world-soul pointing towards the realm of the eternal. Usually, this force is to be found in nature, amidst the forests, lakes, mountains, and trees. But in "Westminster Bridge," Wordsworth finds himself able to connect with the transcendent sublime in an urban environment. And it's noteworthy that the city in its early morning slumber closely resembles the countryside so memorably evoked by Wordsworth elsewhere. It has a life of its own; it is a living, breathing entity with a mighty, beating heart. Wordsworth sounds utterly astonished at the sheer vitality that the city displays as it basks in the early morning glow:

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still!

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What is the central idea of the poem "Upon Westminster Bridge"?

William Wordsworth's poem "Upon Westminster Bridge" is a depiction of the sublime, characterized here by the early morning as viewed from Westminster Bridge in London. Its key themes are beauty in tranquillity and the harmony of the man-made with the natural world, particularly at liminal times of day when, as in the early morning, the world is deserted and still.

Wordsworth was much preoccupied with the idea of the sublime and its connection to tranquillity, and this theme can be seen in many of his poems. In "Upon Westminster Bridge," he describes how "the City doth, like a garment, wear / The beauty of the morning: silent, bare." This beauty encompasses "ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples," all "bright and glittering in the smokeless air." It is notable that the air is "smokeless," as this is contrary to what might be expected in London at that time, a city of heavy industry. Wordsworth suggests that it is in repose that the city is most beautiful, rather than when it is in the midst of its daily work. The poet indicates that he has never "felt a calm so deep" as in this early morning.

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