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Friday, September 3, 2010

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

(Thames below Westminster by Claude Monet, 1840-1926,
French Impressionist painter)

This poem is a surprise.

Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet, like Keats and Shelley. The work of these poets stressed that feelings point to the truth.

The sonnet here is quite typical of Romantic poetry, with its full use of the pathetic fallacy, ascribing human qualities and emotions to an inanimate object, in this case the City of London. It differs, however, in its choice of a city as the object of its affection. For the Romantics, the source of happiness was Nature, especially of the countryside untouched by the Industrial Revolution.


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:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

~ William Wordsworth (1770-1850), English poet

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