Coming to life – Upon Westminster Bridge

Inspired by William Wordsworth’s Upon Westminster Bridge.

The view may have changed a little since William Wordsworth wrote his poem on the 3rd September 1802. He didn’t see the sun rising through the London Eye for one thing! But it is still true that the view from Westminster Bridge early in the morning, as the sun rises, is so beautiful and peaceful and earth does not have anything to show more fair.

I spent a year being driven over Westminster Bridge at 5.30am in the mid-90s when I’d finished a shift at Radio Five Live at Broadcasting House at the top of Regent Street and was getting a taxi home to Camberwell, where I lived at the time.

It was a special time to be travelling through London – especially in the summer when the mornings were light. It provided a chance to admire the architecture free from crowds and in that dawn light that is so flattering to grey stone buildings.

Last year, I took part in an all night photo shoot around London close to the longest day (21st June) and we ended up on Westminster Bridge to watch the sunrise. It really was a privilege to be wandering the streets in the early hours when there were very few others around apart from the odd clubber heading home and a few bored and chatty policemen.

As Wordsworth says, it does feel as though the city is a living, breathing being that is asleep, breathing deeply, resting and yet you know that in a few hours’ time everything will change and it will feel like the busiest city on the planet.

Here’s a reminder of William Wordsworth’s poem:

Earth has 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 splendour 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 might heart is lying still!


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