William Wordsworth is usually a romantic poet
William Wordsworth is usually a romantic poet. He often writes about nature, and is therefore expected to write about nature and romance. In Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Wordsworth has used the traditional romantic form of a sonnet. This suggestion of romance and nature is reflected in the style and language of the sonnet. He uses a lexical set of ‘beauty’, ‘fair’ and ‘sweet’ to convey a romantic image; he also uses ‘morning’, ‘fields’, ‘sky’, ‘smokeless air’, ‘sun’, ‘valley, rock or hill’ and ‘river’. This lexical set brings nature and the countryside into the city. Both lexical sets contrast to the industry and culture of the city and the sense of grandeur, strength and awe, implied in the lexical set ‘majesty’, ‘splendour’ and ‘mighty’. Wordsworth brings the countryside into the city, and the natural within the man-made, with the sun rising and the river flowing ‘at his own sweet will’.
Wordsworth uses a Latin sonnet form, divided into an opening octave, and a concluding sestet. His rhyme scheme is formal, and Wordsworth does not deviate from the a, b, b, a pattern in the octave, but changes to c, d, c, d after the volta at the end of the octave at line eight. Wordsworth clearly writes here in iambic pentameter, and is again formal in the use of stress’. The formality shown in structure, rhythm, and rhyme, and Wordsworth’s use of declaratives, suggest that his poem is factual, unquestionable. For instance, he says ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair:’ and not ‘I have not seen anything so fair’. His language, however, is less formal, his words are mostly monosyllabic, and not intimidating to a reader. In using exclamation marks, Wordsworth shows his emotion though; he seems overwhelmed by the calm. This contradicts the formality, as he shows his emotion, and that this is not formal, or factual, but feelings and opinions.
Wordsworth rearranges his syntax to highlight and emphasise the vocabulary he thinks needs the stress. For example, ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair: / Dull would be the soul who could pass by / A sight so touching in its majesty’. Instead, Wordsworth could have said ‘There is nothing to see on Earth so fair: / A soul would be dull if they could pass by / so touching a sight in its majesty’, but by foregrounding, Wordsworth highlights ‘Earth’, ‘Dull’ and ‘sight’, cleverly using the stress’ of iambic pentameter. This also enables Wordsworth to prolong the vowel sound in ‘fair’ to give a more calm, gentle flow to the poem.
Wordsworth creates an image of the view for the reader. He uses a simile of ‘The City now doth, like a garment wear’, making it seem the city wears its beauty like a person would wear clothes. This makes an awesome sight easier to comprehend for the reader, and creates a better, clearer image, it also gives the city a sense of grace. He uses personification twice in this poem: ‘beautifully steep / In his first splendour’ and ‘The river glideth at his own sweet will’. This not only creates an image for the reader, but it shows that when the people are asleep, greater living things take over. Wordsworth says ‘The river glideth’, he could have used ‘glides’, but he uses the language to change the flow of the poem, ‘glideth’ slows down the pace, and represents the flow of the river on ‘his’ course. His use of enjambment has creates the same effect, each line flows into the next.
Wordsworth uses an ambiguous interjection of ‘Dear God!’. Here he could either be expressing his amazement at the calmness of London early on, or it could be a show of his appreciation to God for nature still being so important in the most urbanised and industrialised area of Britain.
Keats does not use such a formal structure as a sonnet, but he does use formalities such as a rigid rhyme scheme of a, b, a, b and uses three stanza’s of eleven lines each. The structure of Coleridge’s poem is less formal. His rhyme scheme is clear, in an a, b, a , a, b pattern, and similarly creates a sense of harmony and flowing in nature. It has no definite pattern to it’s lines, and is only one continuous stanza. This suggests dischord, and a more chaotic tone than the other two poems which are both flowing.
They show their flow by certain vocabulary such as ‘glideth’ (Wordsworth) and ‘oozings’ (Keats), sibilance – ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!’, and assonance in the elongating of vowel sounds – ‘oozings hours by hours’ and the foregrounding of ‘Earth’ elongates ‘fair’ in Wordsworth. All three use enjambment. However, Coleridge seems to use it more to show length or size. For instance, he uses it to illustrate the length of the river and the size of the walls around the fields, whereas Keats and Wordsworth use it to describe the flow or gentility of what the are describing.
The tone of Keats is very positive. It is cheerful, empahsising the beauty and peace of the countryside in Autumn. It does however, have a more negative side, that winter is coming. Although Wordsworth does not mention it in words, there is the sense that through the beauty of London, of its ‘smokeless air’, eventually the beauty will be spoilt when everyone wakes, and it becomes smoky again. Similarly, Coleridge is very positive about the beauty of Xanadu, and Alfe’s tranquillity, but the ‘sunless sea’ that the river flows into, and the building of the pleasure-dome, that becomes apparent later in the poem, adds a more negative, if not sinister tone to the poem. The ‘wailing’ woman of Kubla Khan, is, however, very similar to the ‘wailful choir’ of To Autumn, the chasm is as ‘savage’ as winter is bleak.
All three use a third person narrative. Wordsworth is the one genuinely watching the scene though. Keats’ poem is based around the passage of time, and it is more likely he wrote this poem about a past experience, in the present tense. Coleridge, however, writes from historical facts, and imagination.
The themes are all similar. Wordsworth’s is of nature, beauty and human intervention with industry. Coleridge’s is of Xanadu’s beautiful countryside being invaded by humans. Keats however, slightly differs, although it is about time and nature, it is not people taking this beauty away, but nature itself, the natural cycle of the season takes autumn and brings winter. This is why it implies a positive message, that although winter is coming, spring will come too, whereas humans damage beyond repair. This is reflected in the tone of each poem. Wordsworth is quite positive about it, and spreads his lexical set about nature evenly, as each morning the same beauty occurs. Coleridge seperates the man-made from the natural quite clearly though, as Kubla Khan builds walls to keep nature out, Coleridge does not mix his natural and unnatural.
Both Keats and Wordsworth use personification. This encourages the reader to visualise the description. Coleridge does not. Coleridge, of course, was a European who had never been to the East, and the poem is simply a fantasy, he therefore perhaps could not give such an accurate description through personification, or did not see, in his fantasy, anything other than what it really was. Coleridge does however, uses similes and metaphors, and these act for the same purpose, and achieve the same result. His metaphorical ‘woman wailing’ makes the same noise as personificating the chasm as a ‘wailing woman’ would, but a woman would not create the same image of a deep chasm, more a small thing, like in Keat’s To Autumn, being frail and gentle.
Coleridge uses dynamic verbs to great effect, lexis such as ‘flung’, ‘swift’ and ‘seething’ give the noun an action that can be seen or felt by the reader. Wordsworth also uses ‘glideth’ to create this image. Onomatopoeia works in the same way, but using sound to create an image thereby clarifying the meaning and adding colour and life to the poem. Keat’s uses this effectively towards the end of To Autumn, with onomatopoeic vocabulary such as ‘whistles’, ‘twitter’ and ‘wailful’. Coleridge uses it in ‘wailful, whereas Wordsworth does not use it.
Coleridge also uses oxymorons, whereas the other two do not. For example ‘tumult to a lifeless’ and ‘demon-lover’. This gives a contradictory image of the reader’s natural image of what Coleridge says. He also says ‘dancing rocks’ which is an oxymoron, because rocks are lifeless, and do not dance, but it may also be thought a hyperbole, as it is an extreme exaggeration of the movement of the rocks, to create extreme action in his writing. All use exclamation marks, or interjections. For instance ‘Dear God!’ (Wordsworth), ‘a savage place!’ ‘But Oh!’ (Coleridge) and ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ (Keats) and in all three emphasise the feeling of the poet, as well as emphasising the extremities of the description.
Although Keats uses sound, he does not use speech, nor does Wordsworth, because both poems have no people in other than the narrator and the metaphorical woman as autumn. Coleridge however, mentions Kubla Khan the king, and the ‘Ancestral voices prophesying war!’. This adds to the idea of human intervention in Kubla Khan. Both Coleridge, in this manner, and Keats’ use of onomatopoeia and sound enable the reader to imagine the scene as if it were around them.