Comparative Study

Comparative Study

Pre1914 Poetry Comparative Study

Compare the ways in which the city is presented in William Blakes London 1794 and William Wordsworths Composed Upon Westminster Bridge September 3 1802

In your response you should consider
The techniques that the poets use to convey their impressions of the city
The ways in which the poets include references to social political and personal concerns and the extent to which the poems are shaped by these

By 1800 London was the biggest city in the world with a population of over one million It was a global centre of power and imperial glory set against a backdrop of revolution Although William Wordsworths Composed Upon Westminster Bridge September 3 1802 and William Blakes London 1794 both concern the city of London and were written in the same period they present the city in very different ways Westminster Bridge is in celebration of the citys majesty and is rarely bitter Wordsworth only ever writes disparagingly of its citizens In London however Blake who was himself a resident of London presents the city as a place crawling with corruption and rife with disease In this essay I will explore the structure form and setting of the poems the poems main themes language and imagery how the poems portray people and society in London and the sights and sounds of the city in order to compare in depth the different ways in which the city is presented

The poem London comprises four quatrain stanzas written in iambic tetrameter Each stanza offers a view of various aspects of the city as seen by the narrator on his wander line 1 Westminster Bridge is an Italian sonnet which is a single fourteenline stanza It is written in iambic pentameter Traditionally the sonnet form is associated with love poems and indeed Westminster Bridge could fall under this classification The poem is metaphorically divided into two parts an eightline octave and a sixline sestet It is conventional for the octave to offer the description or problem and the sestet the resolution In Westminster Bridge Wordsworth uses the octave to detail the scene laid out before him Ships towers domes theatres and temples lie line 6 and the sestet to describe his emotions Neer saw I never felt a calm so deep line 11 London was published in Songs of Experience one of Blakes anthologies As the anthologys title suggests London represents Blakes personal experience and so the first person dominates I wander through each chartered street line 1 This reinforces that the issues presented in London are of personal concern to Blake Similarly Westminster Bridge is written in the first person as it is a personal experience being composed by Wordsworth at the very moment that he beholds the described scene However it does not dominate the poem to the same extent as it does London Wordsworth also makes use of the third person The river glideth at his own sweet will line 12 He does this as he describes his emotions in order to make clear that the experience manifests itself as open to all who would care to observe it rather than using the rather selfish alternative The river glideth at my own sweet will The rhyme scheme of London is ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH for example street flow meet woe stanza 1 This conveys a sense of control authority and monotony which is also echoed in the poems language The meter is rarely interrupted the poem continues with one criticism and revelation after another in order to emphasise the extent and number of the problems that exist not wanting to dwell on any one point as if treating them with disgust Westminster Bridge conforms loosely to the ABBAABBACDCDCD rhyme scheme of the Italian sonnet The rhythm is more often interrupted with variety of punctuation and enjambement creating changes in the flow Dear God the very houses seem asleep line 13 is an example of a caesura which enhances this moment of epiphany in which Wordsworth realises that the tranquillity of the scene is such that the even the houses appear to be sleeping

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