Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment

Background and theme

Background details

Wordsworth was part of the Romantic Movement that recoiled from the rigid scientific world created by Isaac Newton and his followers. Wordsworth led the Romantic poets in a revolution in thought and expression. He believed that we attain happiness through nature and communion with nature. The poem also depicts a vivid scene that is a fond memory shared between Wordsworth and his sister. The poet describes the scene from a perspective that would have been familiar in 1802.

What this poem is about

Wordsworth opens the poem with an expression of wonder at the loveliness of a city, describing the beauty of the morning scene at Westminster Bridge. He then moves on to the man-made constructions which he finds beautiful. The city is in no way in conflict with nature. He even states that ‘Never did sun more beautifully steep…valley, rock or hill’, which is surprising given Wordsworth’s love of all things rustic. The penultimate line of the sonnet explains why Wordsworth feels this way – the city is ‘asleep’.