I can’t count a number of times I walked across Westminster Bridge admiring the view on both sides, but I never noticed a small plaque with a touching poem by William Wordsworth. He composed it on his trip to France with his sister Dorothy. On the morning of July 31, 1802 when crossing the bridge they stopped their coach as they couldn’t resist the beautiful scene in front of them. It was around 5 or 6 am, so the city was still asleep, the streets almost empty and the bright sun reflected on the glistening river gliding along “at his own sweet will”. The same view that so many people were and still are taken by on days like this.
It’s comforting to know that a poet who spent most of his life in the midst of all the natural beauty of the Lake District could appreciate the beauty of this extraordinary city too. It can be noisy, it is overcrowded with people endlessly rushing around, quite often the traffic grinds to a halt and fills the streets with the smell of fumes. However in the early hours, when the city’s heartbeat slows down, and beauty of the morning lies like a blanket over the sleeping city, you can’t help but marvel at the breathtaking scenes. Just stand still, breathe in the fresh air, deeply feel the first warm sun rays and take delight in the calm and silence. At least for a few precious moments.
Composed upon Westminster Bridge
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!
“We mounted the Dover Coach at Charing Cross. It was a beautiful morning. The City, St. Paul’s, with the River and a Multitude of little boats, made a most beautiful sight…. The houses were not overhung with their cloud of smoke and they were spread out endlessly, yet the sun shone so brightly with such pure light that there was even something like a purity of Nature’s own grand spectacles.”