Breath of Clarity

William Wordsworth, Composed upon Westminister Bridge

Wordsworth declares that the city of London is the most beautiful area on earth. The beauty lies in the city’s ironically calm quality, even in the midst of a busy and complicated landscape. The irony is that this large city is defined as a still and quiet atmosphere.

Wordsworth uses the word “more fair” to signify a superior quality of beauty. On the surface, it can be interpreted that Wordsworth is comparing the beauty of London to all other scenes. However, it can also be argued that the beauty of the Earth is being compared to the lack of depth of the souls that exist in its space. The way the speaker uses “fair” to signify justice is revealed in the next line, as Wordsworth describes that the Earth is fair by offering this amazing beauty to its inhabitants but the people fail to recognize it.

Perhaps the speaker suggests that the earth experiences unfairness because there are some “dull souls” who “pass by” it without appreciation. The word choice “dull” suggests that those who pass it by are damaged and worn down to the point where they approach life overall with a sort of bitterness, instead of a love. The colon at the end of the first line shows that Wordsworth feels the need to prove why the natural earth is so amazing because there are some who fail to notice it on their own. The word “majesty” in the following line suggests that earth holds a divine quality that cannot be matched by the humans.

The line “the beauty of the morning; silent, bare” suggests that there is a sense of comfort that lies in the city streets. Humans interpret the city as a busy and chaotic environment, while humans can actually benefit from the “touching” intimate quality of simplicity in the midst of a seemingly chaotic atmosphere. The speaker urges the people to be “open” to the natural beauty that still exists in the scene, despite the manmade institutional buildings listed in the previous line. Even the buildings can be “bright” because they stand in such a pure “smokeless” air space. The word “steep” is used to explain that the sun, which represents the ultimate source of light and hope, descends down from the divine untouchable sky to reach the humans. That is a “calm so deep,” which refers back to the “majesty” that can “touch” the people with warmth.

The final section personifies the river and the houses to act as strong and poor models for the people of the city. The line, “river glideth at his own sweet will,” describes the river as a slow and patient person who doesn’t allow the simultaneously existent fast-paced characteristic of the city to control it. The phrase “at his own sweet will” suggests that this is possible because individuals can make a choice in the way they want to engage with their environment. In contrast, the houses symbolize the dull souls who exhibit a lack of awareness of the beauty. It’s important to note, though, that Wordsworth says the houses asleep, offering a sense of hope at the end that they still can wake up. It creates a sense of hope because their perspective is not permanent. This suggests that there is a potential for the current dull souls to change and become more aware. The final line argues that the deepest aspect of the human body, the heart, is “lying still” and craves to experience an environment that attends to its natural calm essence.