Last night there was a very pleasing programme on BBCFour from the A Poets Guide to Britain series. It was Episode 1* about William Wordsworth and it featured his famous sonnet, Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802. It goes like this:
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
The producers shot much footage on Westminster Bridge itself. However, this is not the bridge that Wordsworth knew. Today’s Westminster Bridge, designed by Thomas Page, was opened in 1862. The poet would have pondered from old Westminster Bridge, which was opened in 1750, the first new bridge in what is now Central London to be erected in over 600 years. It was famously celebrated in oils by Turner, Canaletto and others. Here’s the Canaletto.
* BBC iPlayer: in time this item may in time become a dead link.