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“London” and “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge”

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In the poem “London,” the author, William Blake, describes the misery of poor people in London, such as chimneysweepers, soldiers and harlots, to reveal the scene of exploitation and social injustice and to express his hatred of the city’s moral darkness with a melancholy tone. However, in “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,” William Wordsworth portrays, in a delighted and tranquil tone, the beauty and peace of a London’s morning seen from Westminster Bridge to show his love to the city and his yearning for peace. These two authors both embody their views in visual images, but they create totally different effects in tone and theme by the techniques of word choice and imagery.

In “London,” the author uses a lot of powerful repetition and words with connotations of suffering. For instance, the word chartered is used two times in the first two lines. This word alludes to even the streets and rivers suffering under political oppression, and the word hints at the miserable and dark life of chimneysweepers, soldiers and harlots in the following part of the poem, who are all poorly paid. In lines 3-4, the word mark is used three times to describe the facial expression of people. The marks are of weakness and woe, which shows the miserable feelings of the oppressed. The author writes what he sees in London, and establishes the somber tone of this poem in the first four lines. In the next stanza, the speaker hears the misery of people in every cry, voice and ban. The four uses of the phrase in every emphasize the depth of the poor people’s misery, and “mind-forged manacles” reveals the great repression of the lowest classes by the church and the king in line 8. The author uses repeated words like chartered, mark and in every in these eight lines in order to make his language more powerful and accentuate the relentless oppression.

In the rest of the poem, the author adopts a lot of imagery. For example, the cry of the chimneysweeper covering the church is like a pall draped on a coffin; the sigh of the dying soldier runs like blood down palace walls. These examples of metaphor reveal the cruelty of the society and the miserable lives of children, soldiers and other laboring people. In these two examples, the author has a deeper meaning. He uses a value word “black’ning” before “church” because he thinks that the church is getting dark and it symbolizes a dark force of evil. The church indirectly forces poor children to sweep chimneys. As to soldiers, their blood is a direct indictment of the king who sends them off to die.

Furthermore, youthful girls are also the victims of the city’s oppression. They deepen the misery of the society as the harlot’s curse blinds the new-born babies and turns love itself into a disease-infested shortcut to death, which is the connotation of “marriage hearse”. William Blake uses the curse metaphorically and uses two words blast and blight not only to stress the horrible results of such a disease, but also to criticize London’s oppression to the poor people. From the word choice and imagery in “London,” we can strongly feel the theme of the poem that William Blake expresses his loathing of the city’s misery, spiritual darkness and repression in an angry tone.

In “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,” William Wordsworth portrays a beautiful and peaceful morning in London, which shows a different aspect of London from the one William Blake describes. He uses accurate word choice, similes and personification to make images vivid and visual. Take Line 4 as an example. The author uses a simile to show the beauty of London’s morning as a garment. In fact, the city cannot wear anything, but the author seems to think that the city is more than just a place; it is clean and pure and it is as beautiful as countryside. In lines 6-7, the author enumerates what the speaker sees from the bridge, such as ships, towers and theatres, and the author personifies these constructions and ships to describe a primitive skyline in the clear sky and show a clear view from Westminster Bridge. In addition, the content of these two lines complements and corresponds with the artistic conception of the morning’s clearness and purity. Moreover, in line 8, Wordsworth uses three words, bright, glittering and smokeless, to further represent the endless clearness of the morning in the city.

In lines 1-8, the author portrays the beauty of the city; then, he compares the cityscape in the sun to the description of valleys and mountains–such beautiful natural scenes steeped by the sun. The author says that the sun never steeped any valley, rock or hill in his first splendor more than it is now steeping the city. The comparisons show the author’s love of the landscape. Furthermore, since the sun illuminates the landscape, the speaker thinks the scenes of the landscape illuminate him, and he feels the calm of his heart. We can feel that the speaker connects his feelings to the feelings of the city, and we can also realize the tranquil tone of this poem from these comparisons.

William Wordsworth uses personification in last three lines. The river glides at his own will; the houses seem asleep; and the mighty heart is lying still. The glide of the river in line 12 is the only movement in this poem, but the author uses the word glide, not flow or stream, because glide shows that the river flows smoothly and maybe seems to be actionless. In line 13, the “sleeping” houses also show a tranquil atmosphere in London’s morning. In the last line, Wordsworth again uses personification. The mighty heart represents the city’s heart, which is still because of the beautiful peace of that morning. The personification of these three lines all shows the quiet of the morning in London.

In conclusion, although both of the two authors write about London, the two poems have completely different tones and themes. In “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge,” William Wordsworth praises, with a delighted and quiet tone, the peace and beauty of the city and expresses his love of nature, which makes the city beautiful. He makes the readers have a good impression of London because he describes a specific moment–early in the morning–in London. In contrast, in “London,” Blake writes with sharp word choice and with an angry tone to reveal the miserable lives of the lowest classes to express his loathing of London’s misery and cruelty. Blake leads the readers to feel the injustice of his society and makes them realize the harsh aspect of the city life.

Note: Because of you did not teach these two poems in the class, so I have to look some analysis from the Internet and also the notes from last year, but the paper is written by my own. I also get some grammar help from my high school English teacher; because I do not get any chance to talk to you or the people in the writing center. So the essay might be some places are misunderstood to the poem, but I have tried my best to write the essay.

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