The Romantic writers

Compare and contrast the two poems 'London' by William Blake and 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge', September 3, 1802.

William Blake and William Wordsworth were two of the most influential of all the Romantic writers. They both had very different lifestyles which I believe affected their views on the world and how they wrote about it. Wordsworth had a completely different education compared too Blake, he studied at St. Johns College, Cambridge. Blake was not sent to school but instead his parents enrolled him to go to drawing classes and then in 1778 he became a student at the Royal Academy.

Blake and Wordsworth's poems on London are different in many ways because of the personal way they view the city. Wordsworth sees the beauty of London but Blake only sees the ugliness. Wordsworth's poem is a lot more positive than Blake's. 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge' makes the reader feel as if London is the most beautiful place on earth during sunrise. 'All bright and glittering in the smokeless air' gives a sense of cleanliness and purity. 'London' gives you the opposite feeling; you see how London citizens are unhappy with their lives but still have to carry on with resentment. Wordsworth's poem is free but Blake's gives the idea that everyone in London has to live by rules and boundaries. Blake says 'charter'd street' and 'charter'd Thames' meaning as if it is owned. He puts across the idea of everything being owned, from a small street to a something as natural as the river Thames. Wordsworth's view is a lot freer and as not restricted like Blake's. 'The mind-forg'd manacles I hear' means that people were not free to think for themselves. He said that this did not only affect men, women, or infants, it affected all, as a city.Blake then goes on describe the corruption of the church and the dirtiness of the all the buildings including the church. It is not clear if black meant that the church was dark and corrupt or just physically dirty. I think he really sets the scene of London being a dirty place by using words such as 'blackening'. The mention of the chimney sweepers creates an even dirtier image as well as making you think that London was much polluted. 'Runs in blood down palace walls' I think blood signifies death and who ever lived in the palace is to be blamed for it. This makes you think of the city as even more corrupt and just a dangerous, dark place to be. Blake makes a shocking statement about the 'marriage hearse' and death. It has been written to intertwine the meanings and become one shocking connotation of the start of a new life (marriage) and the end of a life (death).

Blake's overall description of London is that it is owned, everything from the streets the buildings and even the River Thames. He makes you believe that the people of London are brainwashed and cannot think for themselves, their minds are controlled. The prostitutes that were 'infested' in the streets of London and were cursed by diseases and unwanted child births are another factor that makes you think about all the problems of London. Blake's description of London is place that no one would ever want to live. He made you believe that if you lived there your life would be lived for you and you would have to live by certain rules, you basically would have no freedom at all. Everything was 'stamped' and owned, London was a grim and dull city.

Every line of Blake's poem is short, I think this gets the point across quicker and makes it stick in your mind. Using the same word again, makes it the same and gives and a rule. As the poem goes on I think it gets stronger and stronger so the message of the poem is really clear.

'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge is written in a different form to 'London. It is a Petrarchan sonnet with means that the rhyming couplets are closer together in some places. Blakes lines are very short which I think puts the message across quite harshly. Wordsworth's poem was describing London in the morning where as Blake's was at night, he includes 'midnight' in the poem. 'All bright and glittering in the smokeless air' gives the impression of London being a clean, fresh unpolluted area. Blake's gives the completely opposite impression. Wordsworth talks more about the natural beauty instead of the people and pollution like Blake did. Wordsworth says 'Valley, rock, or hill'. The poem is much more calming than 'London'. Wordsworth makes out that very early in the morning London is the most beautiful, peaceful places you could ever be.

The two give very different perspectives on London. One very negative and the other more positive.



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