Today's Topic



Westminster Bridge,
July 7, 2005

Natalia J. Garland

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Terrorists attacked London, England, on July 7, 2005. We have all watched the news reports, viewed the horrific images, and listened to the political analyses. My approach will be to honor the victims by presenting a post-7/7 interpretation of a poem by the British poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Although Wordsworth usually wrote about the beauty of nature, in the following poem he wrote about the beauty of a city: London.

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge.
Sept.2, 1802

Earth has not any thing to shew 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 splendor 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 mighty heart is lying still.

Wordsworth compares the beauty of a city, specifically its buildings and ports, to the beauty of the earth's fields and valleys. Anyone unwilling to perceive such beauty must be dull of soul. I can imagine the terrorists as having this dullness. They seem determined to discount anything of value in America, Europe, and Great Britain. Yet, Wordsworth felt that London was majestic in its culture, businesses, transportation, architecture, and arts. How dull the minds of terrorists, to live among Londoners and as Londoners, and not to cherish these bright accomplishments.

In the poem, London is appreciated as a calm presence in its dark and early morning hours before people begin going to work. This, I believe, was well within the grasp of the terrorists. That is to say, they conspired in secret darkness against innocent and defenseless people. The terrorists found openings, places that were asleep, and they struck. They killed everyday people who were working for a living, they disrupted business, they destroyed transportation facilities, they burdened the city's emergency resources, and they attempted to induce despair.

But London has a mighty heart, both in 1802 and in 2005. Londoners returned to work the next day. The nation that produced Wordsworth, that survived the bombings of World War II, bravely continued to conduct business as usual after 7/7. Perhaps the terrorists need to stroll across Westminster Bridge, gaze at the city, and acknowledge the worthiness of other governments and lifestyles.

Wordsworth was not naive to unemployment, poverty, crime, and other problems of big cities. However, he was able to contemplate beauty wherever and in whatever forms it manifested itself. Wordsworth kept writing into his old age. I hope Londoners will likewise keep going to work, living as fully as possible, and rightfully protecting their nation for the rest of their lives. Let no one despair, but find validation and courage in a poem written by Wordsworth. (Written 07/13/05: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2005 Natalia J. Garland