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|In Composed upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth and London by William Blake, the poets express very different feelings about the city of London. With particular attention to the sights and sounds referred to by each poet, compare the ways in which the poets express their feelings. |
In this essay I’m going to be looking at two poems: Composed upon Westminster Bridge and London and comparing the ways in which two different authors express their feelings about London. In the poems I have discovered that Wordsworth loves this city, and in the second paragraph I will look at the ways he uses to show the reader how beautiful the city is and how deeply he loves it. Reading the poem “London” written by William Blake, I have found that he doesn’t like the foolish side of the city. Blake prefers telling the reader the truly reality of the life in this city, and the way it affects the whole image of London.
Firstly, I want to discuss the poem, which is more positively described by William Wordsworth. In ‘Upon Westminster Bridge” the writer shows the scenery of London. The poem begins with: “Earth has not anything to show more fair”, where the writer is trying to say that London is on of the best places in the world. He is showing a magic power of beauty the city has, which creates a better imagery of the picture of London for the reader. In the next line, the author tells us that anyone who could pass by and not even stay and look at the beautiful view from Westminster Bridge would be dull of his soul: “Dull would he be of soul who could pass by.” In the third line the writer uses very much of personification when describing the city, by saying: “This City now doth, like a garment, wear.” Here the writer is comparing London with a garment which, like the city, is a very beautiful cloth. There’s also a double meaning here, because the poet is trying to say, that at night the city is wearing a garment and looks beautiful, and after the morning, when the city puts its garment off, all the beauty, which he had previously described, disappears. This already shows how deeply the author loves London, by using so beautiful language to describe the city. After that, the poet describes what the beauty of the morning is consisted of: “ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples.” This shows that both parts of the city, made by nature and by man are beautiful. This shows the reader a parallel between the beauties of the nature of the city and the beauty which was created by man. The author then tells us that this creates a picture of the morning.
After this the writer is comparing London to the country, by saying: “Opening upon the fields, and to the sky”, “All bright and glittering in the smokeless air”, or “In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill” which gives a reader an impression of the country side and again, makes the city look very beautiful, which creates a positive impression of the city in the eyes of the reader. This also transports the reader into the atmosphere of London in 19th century, because nowadays it seems to be impossible to be able to see upon the fields, valleys, and hills from the Westminster Bridge. Also, in order to give the city a life, the author uses personification when describing houses at the night time: “the very houses seem asleep.” The poet is describing the city as a living thing, which its own soul and love.
In the next section of “Upon Westminster Bridge” the poet deals with nature’s affect on nature. In the next few lines, the author shows the reader, that the beauty of the sunrise is not all due to the nature. “Never did the sun more beautifully steep in his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill”- these lines here show that the sleeping of the city is also one of those things, which makes it look so wonderful. Wordsworth exclaims: “Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!”. In this, one learns that the calm of this morning is taken in not merely by sight, but is felt throughout the entire being. Once again, the reader is reminded of the rhythm and pace of the natural world with: “the river glideth at his own sweel will”. This is immediately contrasted with “Dear God! The very houses seem asleep”, suggesting that the city itself is a living being existing in the ever waking natural world. The poet drives this point home with the final line: “And all that mighty heart is lying still.”
Another, one of the most striking features of this poem, is the sound of the words, which give a reader a better understanding of what is happening in the poem. Sometimes, the use of onomatopoeia makes the words in this poem sound like they really do in life. There are sometimes places in this poem, where the words can’t be pronounced in the other ways, such as in the first semi-colon of the poem, right before “silent, bare.” This makes the words separated from the others, which also makes the reader pause and pronounce these words quietly.
The words “bright” and “glittering” once again give the objects of the city a sense of life and motion, which are also combined with “smokeless air”, which creates in the imagery of the reader the sense of nature and innocence. When the poet says: “Never did the sun more beautifully steep” he is basically telling the reader that the beauty of the city of London was even better and more wondrous than the sun. When the author uses a word splendour, when describing the sun, he adds the magnificence and grandeur of the natural world in the eyes of the reader. In order to express his feelings even more and transfer them to the reader, the poet shouts out: “Dear God!”, and releases all his feelings of expression in reaction to the beauty he sees. By saying: “mighty heart” the poet once again gives the city a life and basically tells to the reader that this beautiful city has a mighty heart, because if it didn’t, the beauty he saw, would not exist.
The rhyme scheme ABBAABBA makes the poem easily readable for the reader as it gives the poem a rhythm and gives it a sense of movement. This makes the reader interested in the poem all the way to the end, and makes him focused on the point of the poem.
Now I’m going to talk about the second poem and describe the ways in which William Blake expresses his thoughts and feelings about the city of London. Firstly, in contrast to “Upon Westminster Bridge”, from the very beginning of the poem Blake shows his negative attitude towards the city.
In the first stanza he describes the church as “blackening”. The first impression of this word which the poet is trying to make on the reader is that there’s something black and bad about the church. It shows that the church does something wrong, which creates a negative image in the eyes of the reader. It illustrates the industrialisation of the church. Just as he contrasts the chimney sweeps with the indifferent church, he contrasts the soldiers sent out to die, while the palace pays no attention – ‘the hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood down palace walls.’
Also, at the time when this poem was written, there was a very difficult political situation. Britain had a war with Russia and even small changes or threats against another country could make the situation much worse. Blake suggests that if the ‘palace’ ignores the dries of the people a far greater threat, such as revolution might occur. Blake is commenting on the
unhappy lives the people are leading, and criticising authorities such as the church for ignoring their pleas. In the final stanza Blake describes the ‘midnight streets’ as the ‘Harlot’s curse blasts the new born Infant’s tear’. The reader gets the impression of these ‘midnight streets’ being those typical of London. He associates this dirty imagery with London. Blake suggests that the Harlot destroys the idealism of sex, which he feels to be the ultimate embodiment of love. The final stanza begins by describing a prostitute, and unwed mother, who is unable to celebrate her child’s birth. It goes on to tell of a married couple looking down upon her for what she does in order to make a living. This is ironic because the business of prostitution is caused in part by the restrictions placed upon the married man. It is also ironic because the married man is what has created the need for, and use of prostitutes. The harlot curses the respectable and polite society because it is them who have created the demand for her, and then look down upon what she does. ‘Blights with plagues’- this implies that perhaps she also infects them with some sort of sexually transmitted disease, conceivably as a type of vengeance upon those who shun her. The final words of the poem, “Marriage hearse” compares marriage to death. The narrator sees marriage as another type of restriction placed upon man by society, marriage is a sort of death in man’s ability to be free to do what he wants to do.
Basically, comparing these two poems the reader finds out about different points of views about the city of London. Both poets use very descriptive language which creates different images of London in the eyes of the reader. In ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ William Wordsworth is describing the image of the city. He is describes how it looks like, and what feelings it gives him individually.
Wordsworth had generally been very positive when describing the city. He described the outside image of the city of London, whereas William Blake tried to give more attention to the inside of the city and concentrate on what the life in19th century London was like. Blake was trying to say that the inside of the city was more important. He tried to show how the people, who lived in this city and the way they behaved was blackening the image of the city. Also, William Blake was writing for a political purpose, in order to blame British in that it didn’t do much about the lives of the people at during the war period. He tried to tell the reader, that the British government thought it was a duty for the citizens of London to fight and die in front of the walls of the palace, in front of the queen, and in front of the government. From what I’ve read in these two poems I can say, that they are very different and I some reasons for that. One of the reasons why I think so, is that these two poets had different targets and they were writing the poems for a different purpose and, possibly, for a different audience. Wordsworth wanted to describe the beauty of the city, whereas Blake, who lived in the same city, wanted to describe the entire atmosphere in the city and political situation in Great Britain at a certain period of time. William Blake’s poem seems to be more politically affected than Wordsworth’s.
Overall, these two poems were very successfully written, but as I said, they were written in the different ways, and the ways in which these two poets have described the city of London makes the reader understand the illusion image of this city and more realistic life in London.
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