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Sonnet: Composed Upon Westminster Bridge


William Wordsworth

Born in 1770 in the beautiful countryside of the north of England, Wordsworth often wrote of his deep love of nature and the countryside; in this sonnet, however, he recalls a moment when he and his sister Dorothy travelled to London and walked across Westminster Bridge in the early morning, before most people were awake. It is interesting that even when in the middle of England’s biggest city he still compares what he can see with the hills and valleys of his home countryside in the Lake District.

BBC Bitesize guide to the poem:

A reading of the poem:

1. Briefly sum up the content of the sonnet.

2. Give two examples of hyperbole. Explain how these are effective in the context of the poem.

3. "A sight so touching in its majesty" is an example of paradox or oxymoron. Explain why this example might be interpreted as the poem's most important image.

4. What effect on the reader does the personification of London have in line 14?

5. What is the attitude of the speaker at the close of the poem? How can you tell?

6. The sonnet form was not much practised in England between Milton in the mid-seventeenth century and Wordsworth in the early nineteenth century. Which form of the sonnet has he chosen, and how does he employ the octave and sestet to convey his theme?

7. How do the first three lines keep the reader in suspense as to the subject of the poem?

8. Explain how the line beginning "This City" conveys at once a description of what is observed, and the observer's mood.

9. How is the contrast between the momentary hushed stillness of the city and its usual bustling activity implied, even though not actually stated?

10. How does line 8 create a sense of shimmering beauty?

11. How does punctuation contribute to the overall effect of the poem?
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