Study Guide

"Composed upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth in New Criticism

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"Composed upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth

Wordsworth's "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" gets some major attention from the New Critics—especially from Cleanth Brooks in The Well Wrought Urn. Everyone admits that Wordsworth's sonnet is a good poem. But these scholars wanted to know why it's so powerful.

It's not like this poem had some totally new and brilliant idea behind it. In the piece, Wordsworth basically says, "Wow, London is beautiful this morning." We don't even get a painstakingly detailed picture of the city.

Or any fresh comparisons of the city to other things. "Where, then," Brooks asks, "does the poem get its power?"

Luckily, the guy's got an answer for us: it's the paradoxical situation behind the poem. Wordsworth's poem traces the paradox of a city that seems naturally beautiful. See, usually we think of the city and the country as being pretty much polar opposites. But here, the famous city of London is portrayed as beautifully alive, and in tune with nature outside of man's influences.

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