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Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802


by William Wordsworth

Analysis: Sound Check

The language in this poem seems to mimic the gesturing of a person pointing out sights: "Look over there! Now look here!" Imagine Wordsworth, stopped on the Westminster Bridge and standing on top of the coach, making sweeping motions with his hands toward the city at large. Except his hands are words. Formally, one way he accomplishes this gesturing is with accents at the beginning of lines, breaking up the iambic pentameter pattern. "Earth," "Dull," "Ships," "O-pen," and "Ne-ver." He also accents important visual cues like "bright, "glit-tering," and "smoke-less." In line 6, he scans the city from one end to the other, pointing out all he sees along the way. Each word, of course, begins with an accent.

The poem should be read slowly and calmly, both because the speaker is clearly in a relaxed mood and, more importantly, so that we can imagine everything he wants us to see. Some parts are slower than others, like the two words "silent, bare" in line 5 that don't seem completely attached to what comes before or after them. Also, the final lines slow down to a near-crawl, like someone who is tiptoeing toward an infant's crib, trying not to wake the baby. All the more important to be careful and quiet when that "infant" is one of the biggest cities in the world. That London can be a real screamer if it doesn't get its rest!

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