Comparison of ‘Westminster Bridge’ + ‘God’s Grandeur

Compare and Contrast Wordsworth’s poem ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ with ‘God’s Grandeur’ by Hopkins

‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘God’s Grandeur’ are both traditional poems written in the romantic era which looks upon changes that need to happen and looks away from those to the places which haven’t been affected by the misery of the world. ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ is a typical romantic sonnet expressing Wordsworth’s love for the beauty and amazement of London. This is in much contrast to ‘God’s Grandeur’

In which Hopkins expresses his feelings towards the beauty of nature in comparison to the wretchedness of man. Both poems have endeavoured to use their different rhyme schemes, language and similes to propose their own strong views on the world.

‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ and God’s Grandeur both use a traditional petrachan sonnet as the structure for their poem. ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ uses this sonnet format of two quatrains followed by a sestet (the traditional form of a love poem) to show Wordsworth’s intense love for London. ‘God’s Grandeur’ uses the form of the sonnet but uses an octave followed by a sestet to help aid him in showing his two different views on the world today. Hopkins has used the first quatrain to declare his idea of God’s presence and the second quatrain to show how mankind have rejected and destroyed the nature and beauty of the world around us, ‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.’ To relieve this pressure Hopkins has fostered through the octave he uses a characteristic volta in order to show a shift in the argumentative direction between the octave and sestet. In the sestet, Hopkins argues that despite of the interdependent deterioration of human beings, God has not abandoned the Earth ‘And for all this nature is never spent’. Hopkins creates a sense of hope and renewal in the sestet by showing an image of God as one who ‘broods’ over the fallen world. Similar to a nurturing mother, the ‘warm breast’ nurturing the baby bird as God protects the world. The two poets have used the contrite form as they talk about the poem but have showed their different independent views in the way in which they have interpreted this.

The two poems use contrasting rhyme schemes to show their different views on life. ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ uses a musical rhyme scheme to connect with the romantic and enchanting nature of the poem,

‘The city, now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,’

This is much different to the scheme used in ‘God’s Grandeur’ that uses a galloping rhythm to help emphasise the treading, destructive nature of man on the countryside, ‘And all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil’. ‘God’s Grandeur’ also uses a strong iambic pentameter to aid this galloping sound. However, Hopkins slightly strays from this on the fourth line as he follows a stressed syllable with a second stress. This emphasises his rhetorical question, ‘Why do men then now not reck his rod?’. Hopkins uses variation in language from the expected to ensure the point is carried across.

A comparison between ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ and ‘God’s Grandeur’ exists in the language, both written in the 19th century ensures that words not common today such as ‘guideth’ and ‘reck’ are used. The language used by Wordsworth enables him to show his love for London. The romantic nature of the language ‘never did sun more beautifully sleep’, his positive exclamations and sibilance (creating a soft and soothing sound) makes his view of London very clear as he projects the image of London as a soothing and beautiful place. Hopkins uses harsher, more cutting language to show mankind as destructive ‘Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod’.

‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ adds personality by using personification and similes, ‘This city now doth, like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning,’ which creates the image that London is a person which every morning clothes itself easily in beauty. Immediately after that stanza the positive imagery continues with sibilance, “Ships, towers, domes, theatres,” all creating on effect of soft, soothing and calm; reflecting William Wordsworth’s view of London and his feelings towards it. This is much contrasted to the extensive use of plosives in God’s Grandeur creating harsh sounds through the letters ‘t’, ‘d’ and ‘h’, ‘trade, bleared and smeared’.

Both poems have very different views on the world in which we live in. Whilst Wordsworth wrote ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ he was travelling through London on his way to France, happy in his own thoughts. This is dissimilar to Hopkins as he wrote God’s Grandeur after facing much death and sadness in his own life.

Both poets talk of beauty despite of man, In ‘God’s Grandeur’, ‘there lives the dearest freshness deep down’ and in ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, ‘the beauty of the morning’. Both poems use the influence of man to show how the world has become. In ‘God’s Grandeur’ this is negative- how man is destructive ‘All is seared with trade’ whilst in ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ this is a positive action in that trade is seen as beautiful, ‘ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie’.

‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ uses the poem to show London as a loving and enjoyable place to live. This romantic and poetic language makes his poem enjoyable to read, ‘The river glideth at his own sweet will’. This is contrasted to ‘God’s Grandeur’ where the poets first desire is not to make an enjoyable poem to read but to make the reader think about the world. The poems both different styles and languages in order to aid in their two very different purposes.

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15 June 2014. Author: Criticism