Subject Material

Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

Published: 07.08.2012, Updated: 04.03.2017

In most of Wordsworth’s lyrical writing he praises the natural beauty of the surroundings of his home area, The Lake District in the north of England. In that respect this, which is one of his most famous poems, is somewhat untypical. During the romantic period cities were in general seen as ugly and gloomy places compared to the beauty of landscapes and pastoral scenes. But even though this is not a typically romantic poem, you may, if you look closely still spot some clear traces of the true romantic poet both in language and imagery.

Sonnet composed upon Westminster Bridge,

September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth

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, 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!

Westminster Bridge, 1831Westminster Bridge, 1831
Fotograf: The Granger Collection

A Closer Look at the Poem

  • Where can you see indications of the romantic ideals and images in this poem?
  • Make a list of the adjectives Wordsworth uses to describe the city. Do you spot any contrasts?
  • Find examples of metaphors and simile in the poem.
  • The poem is composed as a sonnet. Follow the link below and read more about sonnets.
  • The poem was written when Wordsworth was on his way to France to settle some unfinished business with a French girl before he could marry at home. Follow the link below and read the story about Wordsworth's "French connection".

The Sonnet 

William Worsdworth - a True Romantic