Ok, Euston concourse is not Westminster Bridge but the quiet here at 07.00 am reminded me of the Wordsworth poem. By the time I’d got a coffee and taken my laptop out to start writing, the floor below had become twice as busy.
Of course, London of Wordsworth’s 1802, with a population of 1 million, was a very different city but even so, it was big and noisy and full to him. I wondered, walking down from Highbury Fields to the tube, whether we appreciate quiet minutes in a big city more because we know they will soon be gone.
Now I read the poem, it seems more about rest than anything else, has the atmosphere of watching a sleeping child. A child, yes, but perhaps a giant child:
I say a giant child because of the size Wordsworth immediately makes me feel when he says this moment, this vision, is one which fits into the largest geographical size category: ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’ is a huge comparison coming from a man of Hellvelyn who has crossed the Alps on foot. Earth? Earth?
But I wonder where the next lines come from?
Are there people passing by unmoved? Was Wordsworth himself not looking at first? Has he rounded a corner and had his breath taken away? Or like me entering Euston this morning – I’ve been here hundreds of times and if you say ‘Euston’ a very crowded, hot, uncomfortable, jostling, sometimes panicky scene/feeling enters my mind. So I came in this morning, up the elevator from the tube not thinking, expecting the norm, and suddenly, silence, breeze, space. I was dull of soul before that change stopped me in my tracks. The city – ‘this city’, he actually writes, making it specific, present, all about us, turn, look, now! –
It’s as if some lovely gauzy, light, silk scarf – ‘the beauty of the morning’ – has been thrown over it, changing its appearance, and yet still showing the bone structure: ‘ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples’. What’s missing is the smoke – everything is ‘bright and glittering in the smokeless air’ – that’s the norm, the usual garment, the smoke, the fogginess. Because I know other poems of Wordsworth – and almost everyone who has heard of him will know he has some connection to the Lake District – I can’t help feel he is comparing what he sees now, to scenes he has experienced in the deep calm of the remote north country:
I love the movement from outside scene to inside feeling, which seems to happen as soon as he talks about seeing – in fact, it’s as if he realises it’s not the seeing that is affecting him.
Train due, time up. That was a moment of calm in a busy world.