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Saturday 3 September 2016

Saturday Rave: Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3rd, 1802 by William Wordsworth.

Have you ever imagined William Wordsworth standing on Westminster Bridge on an early Autumn day and gazing, full of peace and wonder, at the City of London?

Have you ever envied him the opportunity to stop and stare, not beset by business and family troubles? To see transcendence in the ordinary, in the unplanned, in the man-made?

Because if you have you've got it all wrong.

Wordsworth wasn't leaning peacefully on the parapet of the bridge as the sun rose on that morning  - and he didn't write the poem on Westminster Bridge, either. No, Wordsworth was rattling over the bridge on the Dover Coach. His sister Dorothy tells us all about it in her Grasmere Journal:

we left London on Saturday morning at 1/2 past 5 or 6 (I have forgot which) we mounted the Dover Coach at Charing Cross. It was a beautiful morning.

And, by the way, it wasn't September 3rd, either. That was the date of composition of the sonnet. It was July 31st.

Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! says Wordsworth: which is a surprise because he was heading for Calais to see his nine-year-old daughter Caroline for the first time (she was the result of an affair with Annette Vallon). To complicate matters further, Wordsworth was at the time of his journey planning to marry someone else.

Still, poets, eh? None of this stops Composed Upon Westminster Bridge being an absolutely breathtakingly wonderful poem.

Word To Use Today: heart. This word comes from the Old English heorte and is related to the Latin cor, the Greek kardia, and the Old Irish cride.

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