People say that Wordsworth wrote in praise of the early morning in London, saying that ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’. That was in 1802, half a century before before the The Great Stink changed the way London used the River Thames for waste management.
I find it hard to accept that his Romantic view was actually ‘All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.’ Surely, even in 1802 the wood and coal burning for warmth and cooking must have hazed a September view?
Are we wrong to think he was expressing a pride in Imperial power ‘while that mighty heart is lying still’. Lying still, still lying?
His sonnet describes how ‘The river glideth at his own sweet will’ and I wonder if this was an ironic comment. Perhaps it stank.
Wordsworth was, alongside Coleridge, a poet who favoured the romance of rural, pastoral scenes. Romanticism was surely about preserving the countryside and the natural world. London, industrialised and smoggy, the centre of government and empire should not have appealed to the romantic side of him. But perhaps he was proud of his nation?
Two centuries on, the calm described by Wordsworth appears permanently disrupted by mankind’s activities. The noises of sirens and helicopters aren’t as bad as once were the odours of firesmoke and horseshit.
Crossing Westminster Bridge was a regular occurrence during my time working as an immigrant in London. We hated the crowds and the roadside shell games that organised gangs used to fleece the tourists. Despite it all, I loved that the river and the views changed every time we crossed.
Here’s a selection of eight photographs taken in 2018 and 2019. There’s no theme to them other than the bridge as location. The fact that three ended up as designs for my scarves illustrates how much I enjoyed the bridge as a platform for thought. Different thoughts to Wordsworth but a strangley contemplative place nonetheless.
Passing Contrast. St Thomas Reflects. Thames Riverside Walk.