Friday, September 3, 2010

Composed upon Westminster Bridge

On September 3, 1802, William Wordsworth composed his sonnet “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802”:

Earth hath 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 splendor, 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!

Walter Scott knew Wordsworth well, and seems fond of him, from several entries in his journal. For example, on January 2, 1827:

‘Talking of Wordsworth, he told Anne and me a story, the object of which was to show that Crabbe had not imagination. He, Sir George Beaumont, and Wordsworth were sitting together in Murray the bookseller's
back-room. Sir George, after sealing a letter, blew out the candle, which had enabled him to do so, and, exchanging a look with Wordsworth, began to admire in silence the undulating thread of smoke which slowly arose from the expiring wick, when Crabbe put on the extinguisher. Anne laughed at the instance, and inquired if the taper was wax, and being answered in the negative, seemed to think that there was no call on Mr. Crabbe to sacrifice his sense of smell to their admiration of beautiful and evanescent forms. In two other men I should have said "this is affectations," with Sir Hugh Evans; but Sir George is the man in the world most void of affectation; and then he is an exquisite painter, and no doubt saw where the _incident_ would have succeeded in painting. The error is not in you yourself receiving deep impressions from slight hints, but in supposing that precisely the same sort of impression must arise in the mind of men otherwise of kindred feeling, or that the commonplace folks of the world can derive such inductions at any time or under any circumstances.’







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