Compare and Contrast the Presentation of the City in London and Composed Upon Westminter Bridge Essay
William Blake and William Wordsworth both wrote their poems about the city of London. They both wrote their poems during the Age of Romanticism, seven years apart. William Blake was an individual who lived and grew up in London, working from a young age. Wordsworth lived in the Lake District and wrote a lot about nature and used that in his poems. Both poems feature London and the Thames but they are set at different time of the day London is set at midnight and Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is set at dawn where ‘the very houses seem asleep’ before the rush of the city begins.
Wordsworth’s poem is very Romantic and refers to nature but, Blake’s is very dark and shows a deeper, appalling side to London even though they are written at the same time. Composed Upon Westminster Bridge was written when William Wordsworth was passing through the city on his way to France. It is a sonnet, made up of fourteen lines.
It is split into two sections, the octet which is eight lines long and the sestet makes up the last six lines of the poem.
In the first line, Earth has not anything to show more fair, Wordsworth is comparing the city to the Earth saying that there is nothing more beautiful upon it than the city of London. The second line continues the first line to say that people who pass it by are dumb and foolish to miss the sight of the city. Wordsworth uses ‘majesty’ in his next line to imply that the city is regal and royal. The City is said to be wearing the beauty of the morning as a metaphor to say that it is reflecting the sun and the sunrise on the buildings.
William wrote as far as the fields and to the sky; this is the connection to nature. He say’s that it is beautiful in the smokeless air, suggesting that the smoke is yet to come. In the sestet, Wordsworth describes more of the city. In the first line he describes how the sun is shining and soaking the city. In the next line he compares the city to nature he uses a list of valley, rock and hill. This is his first splendour, what he knows about most and to compare the city of London with it must mean he was very impressed with the physical appearance of the city.
He then quotes in the next line that the sight is so incredible that it makes him calm at the fascinating sight. In the eleventh line Wordsworth wrote about the Thames claiming at its own accord. In the final two lines he talks about how quiet the city is as it is in the morning, at dawn to be exact. He writes that they are so quiet that they seem asleep, this maybe a metaphor to say that it is quiet before the morning rush of workers, cart and other forms of transport.
In the poem Wordsworth uses similes in line four: The city now doth, like a garment, wears. This is saying that the city is so beautiful the buildings appear to be wearing beauty as clothing. Wordsworth uses personification to describe the river. He says that The river glideth at his own sweet will, implying it has human form to glide at its own harmony. These two devices imply that Wordsworth saw the town as a person or being rather than a city as he uses personification giving it human qualities and also make the city sound dressed in clothing.
Wordsworth describes and compares the city to the countryside. This is unusual as cities and the countryside are different as cities are more polluted whereas the countryside is clean and fresh. Wordsworth usually wrote romantically about the countryside. There is a contrast between the countryside and the cities but Wordsworth wrote this poem in the same way as one about the countryside. He uses objects to do with nature to describe what the city is like. The poem is a sonnet which is a poem made up of fourteen lines.
This poem is split into two sections, as I have previously mentioned, the octet, made up of eight lines and the sestet, made up of six lines. It describes the city of London from Westminster Bridge in 1802. A sonnet is appropriate for this poem as a sonnet is a romantic poem from the Romanticism period. Wordsworth was a romanticism poet and most of his poems were romantic. Wordsworth uses commas to list the manmade structures seen long the Thames. At the end of two of the line Wordsworth added exclamation marks to add emphasis to what he was saying.
The appearance of the city may change during the day as Wordsworth describes it as being silent and bare this could mean that there is rush to come later in the day. In Blake’s poem, which is set at midnight it is described as being a much busier city during this time. Blake writes about conditions as well as Wordsworth but, Blake writes practically the opposite of what Wordsworth wrote saying that the streets are charted compared to that of beauty from Wordsworth’s poem.
Wordsworth writes about the manmade structures of the city whereas, Blake writes about the people of the city as he bad times they are having because of the impact of the industrial revolution. He writes about the crying from the children, chimneysweeps and also the unlucky soldiers sighing. Because Blake had been living in London for most of his life and had a hard upbringing he knows how it feels to be in the same situation as the people who were being affected. Unlike Wordsworth, who was only passing through the city and only saw the physical city not the people of the city and that is why he commented and listed places in the physical city.
Wordsworth may have wanted to comment on the architectural side of the city to show the greatness and importance of it. It is a major port and has a large theatre district and the description emphasises these features. Blake sees a city of people rather than the buildings that Wordsworth saw. He wrote about the conditions in the chartered streets. He talks about the Thames just as Wordsworth did but an opposite description implying that there is obstructed movement in the river. Blake writes that in every face he see there is weakness and woe.
This says that everyone who he sees had a sad or depressed expression on their face. Blake uses other words such as blights, plagues and curse to describe the unfortunate people of the city of London contrasting to the beauty of the city that Wordsworth saw upon Westminster Bridge. Blake presents the people being very ill-fated and presents them in this way to show the darker side of the city. Everyone is appalled and distressed not just a few people. He talks about not just infants but also the cries of men who were soldiers who have nowhere else to go.
Blake writes about the harlot’s cursing. A harlot is a polite word for prostitute; this harlot is swearing at her new baby and is worried for their future. Blake has described the city as being much deeper and having more than just the beauty on top but a horrible society that was two hundred years ago. Blake saw the city of people not buildings as this is where he grew up in comparison to Wordsworth who was just passing through when he wrote his poem. In both poems the river Thames is mentioned although they are completely different.
In Blake’s the river is described as being in very bad way and struggles to flow, but in Wordsworth’s it appears clean and flows at it’s own accord. Blake’s poem is much darker compared to Wordsworth’s view of the city. Blake talks about the cry’s of the infants. The church at the time did not do enough to help the children of London and failed at trying to help. The soldiers cry was because there was no war at the time so the soldiers were not being paid however, there is a reference to the French revolution when it mentions about blood running down palace walls.
There is also a reference to prostitution as a harlot has a baby which implies that the act was unsafe and has led to a baby being born as no contraceptive was either used or there was not one available. Wordsworth’s poem was composed upon Westminster Bridge and was in the early morning Blake’s poem was practically the opposite as it was midnight so these would show two completely different images to begin with. In Blake’s London it doesn’t give an exact place of where the story was but I doubt it was ‘composed upon Westminster Bridge,’ as it seems to be in a poorer area of the city rather than the richer Westminster.
Blake wants the readers to feel as if there is a much darker side to London that many people may not know about whereas Wordsworth would want to share the beauty of the city with his readers. The poems show that there is both a beautiful and a darker poorer side to London like in most cities. I consider that both poems are very respectful as I have been to London and stayed in Westminster and found it physically beautiful but, I am sure there are rougher areas where there are worse things happening which I haven’t and possibly yet to see.