An analytical comparison between Philip Larkin’s ‘Here’ and Wordsworth’s ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ Essay

Several revolutions, wars, and monarchs greatly influenced a new appreciation for nature, country and simplicity in order to escape industrialisation. The structure, style, and imagery of Romanticism are prominent in Wordsworth’s ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, while a hidden theme of nature peers through the descriptions. This theme of nature is similarly echoed in ‘Here’ where Larkin recreates the natural beauty he envisaged through verbal means and the sublime use of word choice and word placement emphatically conveys the vivid projection of urban life and of nature from his understanding.

My own first impressions are that the poem ‘Here’ seems to involve a journey, a movement from one place to a different one. It is highly descriptive, overloaded with objects that are listed and that the final stanza contrasts in many aspects, with the previous three stanzas, in that the final stanza seems more contemplative and slightly more positive in tone. ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, which is a sonnet, shows Wordsworth relishing the elegance and beauty of London and its tranquility. What I interpreted from this is Wordsworth had a similar desire for tranquility and solitude as did Larkin.

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In Larkin’s poem he is on a journey and so we can say he may be traveling on a train where he is isolated from the large industrial town he passes but can look out the window and make observations, this indicates he likes solitude and simplicity (as we later interpret from the later lines). Compared to Larkin, Wordsworth is observing from a neutral point as in the title he is upon Westminster Bridge. Also it is set in the early morning when there is no bustle and noise. He is in awe at the beauty of the morning sun radiating from London’s great architectural marvels.

In ‘Here’ the line, “Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,” in the first stanza contains many permutations. There is use of double alliteration with the two sets words beginning and ending with the same letters. This use of alliteration is reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon literature as Larkin did have knowledge at university of Anglo-Saxon literature so he has incorporated this into his form of poetry. Similarly two lines down, “The piled gold clouds, shining gull-marked mud,” have repeated ‘l’ and ‘d’ sounds which build up expectations and a sense of inevitability of the word choices.

This gives the effect of belonging, the letters are fore grounded and so they appear to connect and be in unison. Also a more subtle use of assonance in, “gull-marked mud,” really makes the journey feel more like a dream as there is a lack of grammatical commentary. The long vowel sounds in, “The piled” and “the shining”; reinforce this dreamy state that the narrator is cajoling into. In Wordsworth’s sonnet his immediate reaction is that the “soul” must be touched, meaning that the feelings or emotions should be stirred.

The first three lines have been devoted to this conviction that the observer must be affected. In line 4 Wordsworth introduces a simile whose details extend through the next group of four lines. The things he comments on are the sunlight “This City now doth, like a garment, wear / The beauty of the morning: silent, bare” as it shone upon London. The two things being compared are the “garment” and “the beauty of the morning”. He regards the things listed in line six as beautiful. He describes the morning using strong, simple words, “bright”, “glittering” and “smokeless”.

The effect of London being “open unto the fields, and to the sky;” seems that earth and sky form, at that moment, a unit, a whole impression. Because there is no smoke, the visual effect is uninterrupted. The entire effect is clean and sparkling. The implication is that the sun can shine on London. The speaker has been struck by the beauty of London on a bright and smokeless morning. The title ‘Here’ may be chosen because Larkin did not want to name the place as Hull as we the reader may have had associated Hull with many preconceptions before reading the poem.

So by calling it ‘Here’ the reader has a clear mind and will take every line for what it is and so each line will have a deeper meaning as the place is mysterious to the reader and the poet can control what information about the place he wants us to know. Compared to “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” it clearly states where it takes place and so it is completely the opposite in that respect to Larkin’s poem. Larkin does not give away what he is thinking and feeling until the last stanza but Wordsworth indicates his argument in the first line, “Earth has not anything to show more fair:” You can judge the feeling behind Wordsworth’s statement.

It seems to me to be one of absolute conviction. There is probably a tinge of awe in it too. The rest of the sonnet elaborates on the statement. But in Larkin’s poem he begins rapidly and quit negatively and then at the end stats to convey a more positive and slightly abstract perspective. What also caught my attention were the certain semantic and grammatical patterns in the poem, relating to `swerving’, the `swerving’ in this poem is not quite like swerving in its contemporary uses. Typically, swerving is an act of avoidance, you `swerve away from’ something, but without a target. You swerve in order to definitely not meet something.

But in Larkin’s poem swerving from, is complemented by swerving to. The sequence I picked up on was, Swerving from ….. swerving through …. swerving to. The order of our language descriptions often do not match the actual order in which things are experienced as we see in this poem. This sequence is used to describe the residents: they are, “residents from raw estates”, who “Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires”. I noticed the extreme length of the poem’s first sentence. It ran on until the first line of the last stanza, 24-lines. The final stanza is sharply different as there are three to four short sentences.

The long sentence through the first stanzas is all visual note taking and a list is formed with little expansion on the items listed, not may adjectives. As the speaker is on a train I assume they are in a more semi-conscious dream state with vague thoughts streaming in. But in the final stanza he slows down. The grammar and syntax clarifies and simplifies. Larkin uses more precise and challenging statements and more philosophical. There seems to be an extensive use of vocabulary relating to town or urban life, and alongside this a number of words relating to the country. I found a merging of town and country lexis.

It does reflect Larkin’s conception of town life compared to country life. The use of, “Pastoral of ships up streets,” shows him commentating obliquely and emphasizing the lack of urbanization as the word ‘Pastoral’ is reflecting a ‘safe world’ as it is associated with the countryside and gives a pure image in my view. Wordsworth, appeals to his reader’s senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. From the line, “…. A sight so touching in its majesty;… ” He makes you visualize that scene, that it encompasses you. “…. All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautiful steep In his first splendor,… “. Wordsworth not only wants one to take notice of the sunrise, he wants one to be absorbed by its warm rays and feel relaxed, taking a breathe of fresh clean air. He makes you feel nothing but tranquil, picturing yourself there, looking at “the beauty of the morning” quiet, “asleep,” and “bare. ” The word “lie” at the end of the sixth line conveys that the “ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples” seem to recline and are conscious of their marvel. He incorporates nature into the scene with the line, “…. Open unto the fields, and the sky;… In a cityscape, one of the last things a reader would think about would be trees, plants and brush.

He sets a very peaceful tone demonstrating nature co-existing with man. Wordsworth is so overcome by this perfection, that he cries out to God – thanking and praising him for allowing him to be a witness to such a sight. The river is moving at its own pace not being forced nor stopped. The “houses,” where the inhabitants live, the life of the city, seem to be suspended in time. Wordsworth’s ending simply reinforces the stillness, silence and angelic perfection of London at a morning sunrise.

But in “Here”, stanza two is perhaps the most `thing’-dominated. We can support that claim by counting the number of nouns, twenty six I counted. This might reflect the speaker’s conception of the town and the “residents from raw estates”. Line 2 in stanza two says that “Here cluster domes, statues, spires and cranes”, these are all stereotypical features found in a town this is in contrast to what Wordsworth thought and viewed these structures. Puns and word-play are used in line 5 of stanza two, at least two words seem to invoke a double interpretation: dead, and stealing.

The, “stealing flat-faced trolleys,” can be read into that the residents physically steal the trolleys or that all the trolleys are used by the residents so in a sense they ‘steal’ them as they deprive others of having one so they are stealing the opportunity from others of having one. In the case of dead, in the line, “dead straight miles”, the double interpretation involves a structural contrast between treating dead as a modifier of the adjective straight, and treating it as a separate adjective. The first interpretation, the miles are utterly straight; on the second interpretation, the miles are both dead and straight.

Also it can imply that dead straight as a whole is less important than miles. If you want to highlight the words in `dead straight’, you would want to bracket just the word dead, to show that it is less important than straight, but both words are less crucial than miles. Typical words like very, rather, quite, slightly cannot create such an ambiguity. One meaning was definitely and deliberately intended by the speaker and the second meaning was only possibly intended. The first meaning is more neutral, less evaluative, while the second is pejorative.

In Wordsworth’s depiction there is not much wordplay in fact it is simplistic in poetic structure. The common language of “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge” makes it easily readable and understandable while still accessing a great deal of emotion. Wordsworth uses simplicity not only in structure, but also in poetic devices throughout the poem. Metaphors become irreplaceable to imagery. The lines “This city now doth, like a garment, wear/ The beauty of the morning” implies that morning is like a cloak draping the city.

Wordsworth brings the very city alive as he personifies the river and even the sleeping houses. “… ll that mighty heart is lying still! ” the metaphor of the heart is very interesting as a heart beats constantly like London, being the capital and the center. The words that might come to mind to characterize, collectively these residents’ desires, are particularly cheap and materialistic, “Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers”. However the poem is not only about ‘them’ but also about the ‘me’ that tells us about ‘them’. The speaker is there in the poem in the same way that a photograph not only records its visible contents but also implies something about the interests of the photographer who chose to record those contents.

This is exactly the same for Wordsworth’s poem as it also captures and reflects his own ideology as does Lakin. Wordsworth allows the beauty of nature to shine past the ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples. The hustle and commotion of everyday city life is absent in the “silent, bare” morning and the air is smokeless without the running of factories. Similarly Larkin reproduces his own desire away from the materialistic and urban sprawl of the town and finds himself, “Here” in, “unfenced existence… out of reach. “

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