Compare Upon Westminster Bridge and London, by William Wordswoth, and William Blake
- Pages: 10
- Word count: 2394
- Category: Bridge
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London and Upon Westminster Bridge are two poems composed in the British industrial era. The two poems look at London from two very different places and states of mind. Blake, who wrote London, is taking a walk through the underprivileged fraction of London and documenting what he sees. His blunt delivery of the city was new and controversial for its time and his dislike of how the city is laid out is particularly intriguing and obviously broadcasted.
Conversely Wordsworth has a much more optimistic view upon the capital, and his sightings are documented in a much brighter and less confrontational manor. His opinions were acknowledged when he was on a buggy ride through the city in the early morning. He ordered his driver to stop, as the view was too good for him not to write. His version of the city upholds his romantic reputation and his rose coloured glasses have almost dictated his writing of Upon Westminster Bridge.
Wordsworth played a major role in the Romantic Movement and his writing was written to please, this could explain why his poem is so light hearted. Wordsworth wrote about nature, and upholding a relationship with nature. Upon Westminster Bridge is describing a rural setting and Wordsworth manages to successfully describe thus metropolis as a serene and naturalistic setting. Blake, on the other hand, was a much more controversial poet, and instead of aiming to please, he aimed to change people’s minds and fully convey his true emotions.
Normally Blake’s poems were revolved around religion, this was due to Blake’s disgust that the church never managed to aid the children that had to work in London, as they had visibly guaranteed. William Blake was a citizen of London and therefore his writing was influenced emotion, and established feeling more than first glance judgement. He, arguably, had a much clearer sense of how people lived and survived. In 1794 Blake published a book, hand illustrated and printed by himself. The book was a collection of his poems, on of which being London.
The book aimed to try and show the two sides of human life and was called songs of innocence and experience. One side of the book, songs of innocence, has a light and positive tone looking at childhood and love. Contrastingly the songs of experience expresses the effects of modern life on love and nature, having a much more negative tone. Also the poem London is highly influenced by the French revolution in 1789. In the revolution the French fought against the British monarchy and aristocracy.
The lines, “and the hapless soldiers sigh, runs in blood down palace walls” are the most obvious to the eye of how the French revolution has predisposed his message. By referring to the soldier as “hapless” he is showing that the strongest and toughest citizens of London were under strain, indicating that the normal man would be under indescribable pressure. What’s more Blake writes that “blood runs down palace walls”, showing that the royals were under pressure and it also insinuates the fact that living in London is so terrible that there may be a revolution on the streets of the conurbation.
Upon Westminster Bridge is a sonnet meaning that it is made up of 14 lines, and there is a regular rhyme format, Wordsworth chose the structure of a sonnet as they are normally used to write love poems, and by using a sonnet it exaggerated his love of the city. In the first three lines of the sonnet Wordsworth doesn’t reveal that he is talking about the city. “Earth has not anything to show more fair, Dull would he be of soul who could pass by, A sight so touching in its majesty… ” In these lines Wordswoth is merely building an image of something transcendent and delicate.
London was a very hectic and industrial city, so by holding back what he was describing until the 4th line the poet uses the vague idea of beauty to embody the city, rather than exaggerating certain details to make it seem like a beautiful place. Also by not revealing his subject, Wordsworth gives the poem a slight feeling of mystery making them feel intrigued by whatever the poem is about. Upon Westminster Bridge is written to sound fluent and for it to just roll off of the tongue. This is achieved by Wordsworth using sibilance.
For example in the lines “Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour valley, rock or hill” there are many ‘s’ sounds and this makes the reader slow down, take their time on words and gives the poem fluidity. Blake also has many, tricks and literal techniques to portray his true emotions and what he wants to declare. He uses repetition to emphasize his message and show that immorality is in many places more than one. Blake writes “And mark in every face I meet, marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man, in every infants cry of fear” in these lines Bake’ has repeated words with negative connotations to accentuate the terror going on and the despair that was about. In the poems ‘London’ and ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ the poets use figurative language to expose or reveal their attitudes about the city. Wordsworth uses personification to present the city as a living creature. He describes how the city, ‘now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning’. Here, the city is consciously clothing itself in nature; the organic and manmade mix together in harmony.
Wordsworth seems to be using this technique to make a clear link between the city and nature, which suggests he feels that the city is beautiful and powerful, like nature. Conversely, Blake illustrates London using metaphors to expose the horrors that Wordworth’s “bright and glittering” city ignores. His harsh criticism the city is conveyed through his careful word choices and repetition. He writes the line, “I wonder through each chartered street”, showing that he sees the city as a trapped place. Everything is mapped and caged into an over managed and almost now lifeless city.
The river themes, a free flowing organic piece of the capital has been written as “chartered” as well. It has been forced to run where it is told. No-one owns this river yet it is ordered into a state where it is no longer natural. Blake uses his controlled and blunt manor to convey his feelings about the city and to raise hairs of those high in society. It was written to be controversial and he makes sure that everything about it is frank. Both of the poets use very similar types of figurative language but by using them in different ways they paint two very different pictures of London.
Blake has put his poem into four very concise and restricted stanzas. The poem follows a very precise ABAB rhyming pattern and follows a non-changing rhythm. In the first two lines of the poem Blake writes “I wonder through each chartered street, where the chartered Themes does flow” setting up his idea that London is too structured and mapped and that there is no freedom or flexibility. Blake’s controlled manor is a very effective way to fully drill the idea that London is no longer free into its readers mind. Also, he refers to the Thames as chartered.
The Thames is a free flowing river and it is an organic and natural occurrence. Making a river chartered and restricted is unnatural and goes against nature. By doing this Blake has shown the extent that London went to into the business sense of mind. In Upon Westminster Bridge Wordsworth uses many adjectives to give the city a royal status. For instance the uses of words such as “majesty” and “mighty” have very regal and noble connotations giving the city a sense of true strength. Also Wordswoth takes words that have pessimistic connotations and makes them seem beautiful.
Such as “ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie open unto the fields and to the sky”, here he has taken industrial, sometimes seen as ugly buildings and landmarks and has mad them into beautiful pathways and gates that lead the eye up to a attractive sky. Conversely to Blake’s poem Wordswoth has written the Thames to be natural, and the line, “The River glideth at his own sweet will” shows that the river is free and flowing. Blake uses many oxymorons in his poem, taking majestic and fair parts of the city and by pairing them with a gruesome adjective or noun he turned it to a repulsive and negative manor.
For instance, “youthful harlot” and “marriage hearse” both have positive prefix’s and negative suffixes. The word youthful is used to show children and life, but when this youth is used in a ‘harlot’ then it has made the youth dirty and disrespectful, and the word marriage has only positive connotations such as love and eternal happiness, but by pairing it with hearse, a funeral car, Blake is almost saying that marriage is just part of the ride of life and no matter what you do everything, even if it may be happy, leads to death.
By doing this Blake makes everything in London negative even if it may to be so. Wordsworth has put many different lines of personification randomly throughout the poem. For example, “this city now doth like a garment wear” says that the city is fully clothing itself in the morning atmosphere and the beautiful nature. This gives the poem a true sense of personality and makes London a person, making it much more relatable and likeable. Also Wordswoth makes the capital seem clean and light by using lines such as, “all bright and glittering in the smokeless air”.
This line has made the city seem innocent and fresh. In London Blake uses very strong imagery taking very powerful pictures and stripping them down to there hidden and sinful being. In the final two lines Blake writes, “Blasts the newborn infants tear, and blights with plagues the marriage hearse”. In these two lines there is slight alliteration as there are many “b” sounds. ‘B’ is a very harsh sounding letter and has made the lines be punched out of the reader’s mouth.
By using the word blasts he has made the noise extreme and by making that noise being targeted at a new born this almost makes the act twice as cruel. By referring to the marriage hearse as a plague this means that it is inescapably and it will happen. By song all of these images Blake really paint clear pictures in the mind, which can only haunt. What’s more Blake refers to a “blackening church” in the line “Every blackening church appals”. Here he is blaming the church, he is pinpointing them.
In the industrial era the Church of England said that they were going to raise money and help the poor children of England, this never happened. Blake publicly blamed the church for many of the downfalls in London and my adding this line to the poem he again is showing that the church shall always be black, dire and pitiful in his eyes. Also by using the word ‘appals’ he is saying that the church disgusts people, which can relate to the modern day as now the idea of religion isn’t publicised in a positive way.
Both Poems were written during the same era, the industrial revolution. The industrial state that the city was in disfigured how it was run. The city was being managed like a giant business and the poor were just the cogs that kept the rich people functioning. The industrial revolution also brought in the invention of trains. The steam train revolutionised the idea of transport, and consequently people became more interested in literature and that brought around the romantics. The demand for literature became high and romantic stories/poems were what individuals wanted to read.
Wordsworth uses personification to conjure up images in the readers mind. In the line, “This city now doth like a garment wear” Wordsworth is refereeing to the city as a woman wearing the nature like a dress. He does this for many reasons, one being that beauty in the sense of people can easily be adapted in the mind of the reader to whatever they may perceive a beautiful woman to be, but not everyone finds cities beautiful and a city is much harder to modify to each and every persons perception of beauty.
Another reason could be that by saying the city is wearing nature like a garment it is insinuating that the nature is covering and protecting the city, and no matter what is inside the city whether that be bad or good the coating on the outside is beautiful. Also to create beautiful images the poet uses many positive adjectives to highlight simple parts of the city such as the air. For instance, in the line, ‘all bright and glittering in the smokeless air’ Wordsworth uses three powerful adjectives to create an image of clear air.
By making the air ‘smokeless’ was an incredible insight for the time of the poem being written as London was in an industrial revolution meaning that much smoke was being produced daily. By using the words ‘bright and glittering’ Wordsworth is glamorising the city, this can link to the modern day as nowadays London is seen as a bright lights, big city and is constantly bright and glittering.
It is clearly obvious that both poems have different tones with London being completely pessimistic and Upon Westminster Bridge being at the other end of the scale. Blake’s negative take on the city is accurate to the journey of his poem, with him walking through the less privileged part of the city and noting his views, but similarly Wordsworth completely contrasting views of the city do coincide with his journey of looking out at the city very early in the morning.
So even though the tones of the poems are different the evidence for these tones is completely similar. I truly like both poems but I slightly prefer the structure of London as it follows a regular rhyming pattern and the metaphors and imagery techniques are stronger and more interesting. I think that both poems have achieved what they wanted to and both are written with true emotion plus both poems show the highs and the lows of the industrial era effectively. Both true great poems of the industrial revolution.