Composed upon Westminster Bridge, William Wordsworth, Analysis & Themes

"Discover the timeless beauty of London's morning majesty in William Wordsworth's iconic sonnet. A vivid portrayal of a city at rest, where nature and architecture harmoniously blend in a serene symphony."

Sonnet Text

Earth has not any thing 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, theatres, 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 splendour, 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!


• A person is admiring the beauty of the Earth and nature
• Also shows an appreciation of man –made things (less than natural)
• Setting: Westminster Bridge, London, England

Split into four parts according to stanzas

Part 1: First Quatrain

The first quatrain of William Wordsworth's sonnet describes the awe-inspiring beauty of London as seen from Westminster Bridge on September 3, 1802. The poet emphasizes that Earth has nothing more fair to show, suggesting the extraordinary nature of the scene. He asserts that anyone lacking in soul would be dull enough to pass by without being moved.

Part 2: Second Quatrain

In the second quatrain, Wordsworth elaborates on the city's appearance. He metaphorically compares the city to a garment, suggesting that it adorns itself with the beauty of the morning. The city is portrayed as silent and bare, with ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lying open to the fields and sky. The use of imagery highlights the visual grandeur of London.

Part 3: Sestet

The sestet focuses on the poet's personal experience and emotional response. Wordsworth describes the unparalleled beauty of the sun steeping the landscape in its first splendour, be it valley, rock, or hill. He reflects on the deep calm he feels, stating that he has never witnessed or felt such tranquility before. The river flows freely, and the houses appear asleep, enhancing the sense of stillness. The poem ends with a profound observation that the entire city, with its bustling heart, lies quiet and motionless.

Major Themes

  1. Man vs. Nature: While the poem showcases the co-operation between humanity and nature, it subtly touches upon the underlying tension or contrast between the two forces.
  2. Awe and Amazement: The sonnet expresses the overwhelming sense of awe and amazement experienced by the poet when confronted with the extraordinary beauty of the cityscape and its natural surroundings.
  3. Transient Beauty: The poem acknowledges that the beauty observed on Westminster Bridge is fleeting and ephemeral, emphasizing the temporary nature of the captivating scene and reminding readers of the impermanence of worldly splendor.
  4. Beauty of Nature: The poem celebrates the awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world, focusing on the breathtaking scenery of London from Westminster Bridge.
  5. Transcendence: The poet's encounter with the magnificent view transcends the ordinary and evokes a sense of wonder and spiritual elevation.
  6. Stillness and Serenity: The poem portrays a moment of tranquility and silence, emphasizing the peacefulness of the city in the early morning hours.
  7. Human Connection to Nature: Wordsworth highlights the harmony between humanity and the natural environment, expressing a profound appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things.
  8. Power of Perception: The sonnet explores the transformative power of perception, as the poet's observation and appreciation of the scene on the bridge heighten his emotional and sensory experience.
  9. Romanticism: As a representative work of the Romantic era, the poem reflects the movement's emphasis on individual experience, emotion, and the sublime beauty of nature.

Critical Analysis

"Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" by William Wordsworth is a sonnet that captures the poet's awe and admiration for the city of London. The poem presents a unique perspective by focusing on the city in the early morning, highlighting its sublime beauty.

Wordsworth's choice of language creates a vivid and sensory experience for the reader. The imagery of the city as a garment, wearing the beauty of the morning, evokes a sense of tranquility and harmony. The description of the city's elements - ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples - lying open to the fields and sky creates a visual spectacle.

The poet's use of the phrase "smokeless air" emphasizes the purity and stillness of the scene, contrasting with the usual bustling and polluted cityscape. The sun's splendor is described as steeping the surroundings with its first rays, creating a breathtaking landscape. Wordsworth's emphasis on personal experience, stating that he has never seen or felt such a profound calm, adds an intimate touch to the poem.

The river flowing freely and the houses appearing asleep evoke a sense of serenity and tranquility, while the mention of the "mighty heart" lying still suggests a temporary pause in the city's bustling activity.

Wordsworth's "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" celebrates the beauty of nature and the harmony between urban and natural landscapes. It invites readers to appreciate the sublime in unexpected places and to find solace in the profound stillness of the city.


• Romantic and Figurative
• Personification - ‘City now doth like a garment wear’ and ‘the river gildeth’
• Juxtaposition – ‘The beauty of the morning; silent, bare’
• Pathetic Fallacy – ‘sun more beautifully steep’
• Semantic Field – Geographical/Nature : ‘valley’, ’rock’, ‘hill’, ‘river’, ‘sun’, ‘sky’, ‘air’, ‘Earth’


• The poem is structured as a sonnet, giving it a sense of romance (with nature)
• The rhyme scheme is AB1/2BA ABBA CDCDCD
• Half rhyme could to embolden the aspect of ‘majesty’ of the sight
• The poem is structured physically all as one, but stanzas are identifiable due to rhyme scheme

Sound devices

• Sonnet rhyme scheme makes it sound harmonic and emphasizes the air of romance
• Sibilance: ‘the very houses seem asleep’
• Alliteration: ‘towers, domes, theatres and temples’ (t) and ‘Ne’er saw I, never felt’ (n)


• Admiration: ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’, ‘A sight so touching in its majesty’ and ‘Never did the sun more beautifully steep’
• Serenity: ‘a calm so deep’, ‘mighty heart is lying still’, ‘own sweet will’
• Reverence: ‘majesty’
• Poem shows love for nature: ‘river glideth’
• Poem also shows how the creations of man integrate nicely with nature: ‘The City now doth like a garment’
• Also shows an appreciation for God and how all of this is his creation: ‘Dear God!’

Linking poems

‘Pied Beauty’: Both are very romantic
‘Summer Farm’: Both show an appreciation of nature

William Wordsworth:
Date of Birth: April 7, 1770
Role in Literature: Played a significant role in launching the Romantic Age in English Literature
Poet Laureate: Served as the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1843 until his death in 1850
Influenced by: Deeply influenced by the French Revolution and its ideals of freedom and equality
Famous Work: Co-authored "Lyrical Ballads" (1798) with Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Belief about Poetry: Believed that poetry should reflect ordinary human experiences and emotions, considering it the "real language of men"
Notable Poems: "Daffodils," "The Prelude," "Tintern Abbey"
Appreciation for Nature: Had a profound appreciation for nature, celebrating the beauty and spiritual connection found in natural landscapes
Literary Career: Spanned over five decades, exploring themes of memory, loss, and aging
Date of Death: April 23, 1850
Legacy: Left a lasting legacy as one of the greatest English Romantic poets

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