Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 15: Sonnet: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth

lesson image
View of Westminster Bridge and the Abbey by William Anderson

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 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!

    Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 15: Sonnet: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

by William Wordsworth


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the poem each day.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poetic form.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


In William Wordsworth's Petrarchan sonnet, "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802," the poet stands astride a bridge spanning the River Thames in London, England (United Kingdom). The poet describes London clad in the beauty of early morning - the gliding river, the silent houses, and the reflected sunbeams glittering everywhere.


Poems often adhere to specific poetic forms, defined as 'poems following distinct sets of rules.'

The nine poetic forms we'll study include the:

  1. Sijo: A lyrical Korean poetic form of three long lines.
  2. Haiku: A Japanese poem of three lines and a total of seventeen syllables.
  3. Limerick: A humorous poem of five lines and the rhyming scheme AABBA, typically having syllables of 9–9–6–6–9.
  4. Sonnet: A poetic form of fourteen lines that follow one of a few common rhyming schemes.
  5. Epitaph
  6. Acrostic
  7. Visual
  8. Ode
  9. Blank Verse

Although we'll not delve into the details, listed below are six common types of sonnets:

  1. Italian Sonnet
  2. Petrarchan Sonnet
  3. Shakespearean Sonnet
  4. Spenserian Sonnet
  5. Miltonic Sonnet
  6. Terza Rima Sonnet

Petrarchan sonnets such as Wordsworth's follow the listed rules:

  1. Consist of fourteen (14) lines
  2. Have approximately 10 syllables per line
  3. Divided into an 8-line stanza and a 6-line stanza


Activity 1: Recite the Poem Title, Poet Name, and Poem

  • Each day this week, recite aloud the title of the poem, the name of the poet, and the poem.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Narrate the Poem

  • After reading the poem, narrate the poem events aloud using your own words.

Activity 4: Map the Poem

  • In the poem, the poet describes the river Thames and the city of London.
  • Find Europe and the United Kingdom on the map of the world.
  • Find London and the river Thames on the map of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Activity 5: Explore Personification

  • Personification is a literary device in which an inanimate object or an idea is given human qualities.
  • Describe how the poet personifies the city of London, the sun, and the river Thames.

Activity 6: Discuss Inspiration

  • What inspired the poet to write this poem?
  • Describe something that inspires you to take action.

Activity 7: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 18 of 'Elementary Poetry 6: Poetic Forms.'


  1. 'Sonnet.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  2. 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.