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“London” and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3rd, 1802” Essay Sample

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“London” and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3rd, 1802” Essay Sample

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and William Blake (1757-1827) were both romantic poets. Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement that originated in the late 18th Century. Blake and Wordsworth tended to write about the same things such as nature, people and structures, such as cities like London. Emotions also played a big part in romantic poems. Often poets would be inspired by a simple view and would write a masterpiece about it. For example, Wordsworth lived in the Lake District for most of his life and this inspired many of his poems.

Romanticism is thought to have started in Germany and England in 1770s and by the early 1800s it had spread through most of Europe. Romanticism spread westward quickly and was greatly influenced by music and for many years it was used in concert halls. Today it is known as neoromanticism and is used in many things without the public even knowing. Even the soundtrack from Star Wars was based on the style of romanticism.

Both poems are about London, but based around two very different opinions. Blake’s poem describes London as hell on Earth, while Wordsworth’s praises London as heaven on Earth. To more contrasting poems have never been written.

In “London” the poem is written in the first person account (this could be Blake). The person notices the terrible living conditions and suffering life of Londoners who live by the Thames. The use of detracting language (weakness, hapless) drives his feelings of sympathy for the people. “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” however is full of praise for London, but does not describe the people of London as it is written in the morning before the city has awoken for a new day. It describes the landscape and architecture of London as “majestic, bright and glimmering”.

Wordsworth says that London is the most beautiful place on Earth and anyone who would walk past without a glance would be “dead of soul”. Blake, on the other hand, probably thinks that the people who live IN London are dead of soul. His London is a bleak city, torn apart by corruption in the royal family and the church. In lines 9 and 10 Blake links chimney-sweeps and the church through both contrast due to their wealth and also through a small likeness because both or unhappy. The chimney-sweep is
extremely poor and has a terrible quality of life whereas the church has the opposite of this but has forsaken religion and Christ. No one can by happy when a city is like this.

In Wordsworth’s poem, the chimney-sweeps have been hard at work because “Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie…All bright and glittering in the smokeless sky”

The skyline of the city captured Wordsworth heart and he fell in love with it. However he couldn’t see past the buildings and look inside them. Blake did and that is why the two poems differ so greatly. Wordsworth saw the outer casing, but Blake delved deeper into the heart of the city and found out what it was really like under the outer garments.

“London”, being the harsher poem, conjures much more powerful images, the strongest probably being from line 8. “Mind-forged manacles”. Here Blake implies that the important restrictions come from mental limitations, not physical ones that can be seen and touched. It also might suggest that the leaders of the city (Kings or mayors) might be controlling people through fear or that they are too bothered about being rich and having a good reputation than to care about the poor and needy and do something about it.

The repetition of “every” (seven times in all) makes clear the extent of suffering in London. It is not just in isolated incident, or a few people dotted about all over the city, it is everyone connected with London. The whole society.

Another powerful image is in line 12. “Runs in blood down palace walls”. This is so extreme to a point of exaggeration. It is a point to the control of people through fear. If a soldier sighed or spoke out against the royal family he could be executed for treason.

The final image of horror is in the final line. A “hearse”, which is a funeral vehicle, is an odd word when linked with marriage, which is supposed to be a happy time. Blake is pointing out the fact that family-life and marriage is dead. More evil things like prostitution are becoming a bigger factor in society.

The imagery of “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” is that of splendour, majesty and glamour. The first line says it all. “Earth has not anything to show more fair”. This obviously states the London is the most beautiful place on Earth. An important statement is lines 4 and 5, “This city now doth, like a garment wear/the beauty of the morning; silent bare”. The city is sleeping and the morning tide can creep and nestle amongst the towers and steeples of London’s landscape. However, once the morning veil is lifted, London will become a very different place. The whole poem is used as a love-letter to London. Praising it, admiring it, and paying it many compliments. Describing the city as having a mighty heart shows how much Wordsworth cares and adores this city. It is also a very good description because the people are the heart of he city and while they are sleeping, nothing goes on in the city and everything is calm and quiet. Of course, nowadays, London never sleeps so Wordsworth enjoyed it while he could.

The language in the two poems is obviously very different. One poet was in love with London, while the other was quick to point out its major flaws. One large contrast is in the first stanza of “London” and the 12th line of “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”. Blake repeats the word “chartered” to drive home the fact that the whole of London is ruled over and nothing has any free will, whereas Wordsworth says that “The river glideth at his own sweet will”, which implies that the river chose to flow through the glorious city of London and that despite its ever present urge to get to the sea, it wants to stay in London for as long as possible.

Repetition is used a lot in “London”. Chartered, mark/s, in and every are all repeated several times. All the words are repeated to drive home there allotted point. Mark/s describes how all Londoners are labeled by society. No other identities are allowed and it is very obvious that people are burdened by this. “In” is repeated to show the universal effect. There is no escape from London and it is exaggerated to emphasise the problem.

Every is repeated to show that every single person on London is effected. It accumulates all the problems and states that everybody has them. There is absolutely no escape.

In “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” no one would want to escape from the incredible London that is described. The language is carefully crafted so that each point leads into the next and builds the excitement so that it is almost a joyous relief to get to the next line or the end of the poem. The list of superlatives describing the buildings in London does this very well. The techniques of alliteration (lines 9-10), repetition (line 11) and the personification of the river Thames, making it feel more part of the city than if it were just “the” river, rather than “he”. These three techniques only add to the happy tension that builds throughout the poem up until the exclamation “Dear God!”. This feels like the climax of the poem and the poem ends the next line. If it were drawn, the poem would rise and rise and rise, and then drop steeply and quickly from its peak.

Both poems were written in the Romantic period. One is in sonnet form and one isn’t. “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” is in Petrachan sonnet form, whereas “London” is not a sonnet. Sonnet poems always have fourteen lines, but “London” as sixteen. Sonnets are written in Iambic Pentameter which means that they have five main beats to a line. Sonnets are also usually love poems. However, many writers have adapted this form for other purposes. The structure of a sonnet poem is particularly useful for organising and structuring an argument.

Wordsworth clearly didn’t want much feel of rhythm and iambic pentameter in his poem, because he frequently breaks up the rhythm by not using any punctuation at the end of each line (No commas etc.) This means that the reader should carry on through the poem without pausing. “This city now doth, like a garment, wear/The beauty of the morning, silent, bare.”

The poem, being a sonnet, is a love poem to the city of London. It praises it, admires it and describes the absolute beauty of the entire city. “London”, on the other hand, is not a sonnet. It is not a love poem, it does not have fourteen lines and it isn’t written in iambic pentameter. The poem has four, four line verses. They are straight and have alternate line rhyming. This is not sonnet form. The poem is bleak, dark and certainly not a love poem.

“London” and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” are to very different poems but a very similar in the way they present their information. While Blake obviously feels sorry for the Londoners lifestyle, he also makes it very clear in the poem. He says exactly what he sees. The poor, hapless people and the corrupt church and royal family. It is the bluntness and starkness of the poem that shocks you and drives the point home. The poem describes the truth about London. How, behind all the glamour of being England’s capital city, London has slums and a great number of people who live in extreme poverty.

“Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” also presents in information blatantly for the reader to see. Wordsworth adores London and everything about from his point of view is brilliant. Yet, he only saw it from the outside he was sitting on a bridge in an upper class part of London from which he only saw the finest bits. If someone were to sit on the bridge then undoubtedly they too would be stunned by he view, but if they jumped down from their perch and wandered off into the city’s numerous back alleys then they would see the London that was described in the poem, “London”.

“Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” is such a popular poem because it is what the public want to hear about London. They want to take the chimney-sweeps and the diseased people and sweep them under the rug and out of the way. They want a glorious, happy, shiny city that has the finest food, buildings and people. Blake was a true poet in the sense that he told it how it was. He wasn’t afraid to say that London was filled with vile, corrupt people. Wordsworth probably knew about this, but wanted to give the people the London that they wanted.

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