Home English Analysis of ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, by William Wordsworth

Analysis of ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, by William Wordsworth




The speaker declares the sight in front of him is the most beautiful one on earth. Unless you are a person with no sensitivity, you cannot but be moved by this wonderful vista. This early morning’s beauty is like a vestment that the city drapes itself in. It is early morning and all is quiet. From where he stands, the speaker can see the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks right up to the edge of the city as the air is clear. The speaker is surprised that at the peace that prevails in the city. It is as though the great city of London is asleep that beautiful early morning.


Main subject


The main subject of the poem is the remarkable beauty the speaker witnessed as he gazed on the city of London while on the Westminster Bridge. The air had a special quality, there was peace all around and he could see for miles ahead.



William Wordsworth was passing over the Westminster Bridge one early morning and was captivated by the clarity of the morning, the peace that lay around and the sight of London as it slumbered before the start of day. It is an unusual sight that moves him to compose a sonnet in praise of the beauty of London.




Wordsworth was a nature poet and it was unusual for him to write about cities. But this sight was extraordinary and he is moved by the peace that lay around and the clear light that let him gaze on this great city. The speaker says that only a person with a dull soul can remain unmoved by the sight. Speaking in hyperbole he says that a more beautiful sight that this did not exist on earth.




There is a spontaneous outpouring of joy and pleasure on seeing the great city of London bathed in clear early morning light. The mood here is light and it reflects in the simple but elegant language used. There are no allusions but in simple terms he describes the unusual beauty. Till the fourth line he does not reveal the subject of the poem. He then links London with the beauty of nature and its power to make the city beautiful and ethereal.




The poem is a sonnet which is associated with love poetry; it is but natural that Wordsworth uses this format to describe a scene he loved so much. This poem too has 14 lines and a formal rhyme scheme but like many Romantics, Wordsworth too did not follow the classical pattern strictly.





There are several points in the poem where the poet uses lists to elaborate the sight that attracts him. By using negative language as in “Never did the sun more beautifully …” “Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!” the poet is able to create the impression that the city is superior to every other sight in nature. By using words like ‘majesty’ and ‘mighty’, he is able to convey the idea of power of the city as though it is king or an animal like a lion. The ethereal beauty of the city in the clear light is conjured by words like ‘glideth’, ‘splendour’, ‘glittering’, ‘bright’.


The dominant image in the poem is of the slumbering city that is covered by the clear morning air as though it is a vestment. The beauty of the morning lights up the London landmarks making them more beautiful. The poet declared that this is the most beautiful sight in the whole world.


Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is an Italian sonnet though it does not follow the classical format completely. The rhyme scheme that the poet utilizes is abbaabbacdcdcd. It is in iambic pentameter which has ten syllables in a line with stressed and unstressed alternating. This pattern gives a natural rhythm and movement to the poem. 


There are many instances of alliteration in the poem, for example, “houses seem asleep;” “Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour…”

Figures of Speech

The whole scene that the poet surveys is personified and he gives life to the river (“The river glideth at his own sweet will”), the sun (“Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour”) and finally, the whole city (“ This City now doth like a garment wear… “And all that mighty heart is lying still!”) which is said to have a heart.

Readers can also see an instance of hyperbole when the poet exclaims the “Earth has not anything to show more fair:”