Poetry explications made easy?
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
Earth has not anything to show more fair:What is explication? Let's take a quick look at the beginning of an "A" example:
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 mighty heart is lying still!
This poem dramatizes the conflict between appearance and reality, communicating the idea
that even in the unnatural city Nature’s presence can be seen. From Westminster Bridge, the
speaker looks at London at sunrise, and he explains that all people should be struck by such a
Line 1 begins with the speaker expressing his wonder: “Earth has not anything
to show more fair” (Wordsworth). Although he stands on a bridge in the city, a place the speaker sees as apart from nature, he finds himself seeing a scene as beautiful as any natural wonder like a
waterfall or mountain. In the next lines, the speaker further highlights the wonder of the
scene saying someone would have to have a dull soul not to be moved by “A sight so touching
in its majesty” (Wordsworth 3). What is ironic here is that the city typically, especially early 19th century London, is associated with pollution and human affects of the industrial revolution
In lines 4 through 9, we see details of the City scene the speaker is wondering at. In line 4, he
uses the metaphor of clothes to describe the city’s beautiful appearance: “This City now doth,
like a garment, wear/ The beauty of the morning” (Wordsworth 4-5). He seems to describe the way
the special light of early dawn illuminates the city as if this light were a beautiful piece of
clothes covering the city scene. Lines 5 and 6 catalog what he is seeing: “silent, bare, /Ships,
towers, domes, theatres” (Wordsworth). …
The Next Paragraphs
The next paragraphs should continue to explicate the poem’s central meaning line by line, expanding the discussion of the meaning and conflict central to the poem in terms of the elements of poetry: words/diction, imagery, speaker and tone, figures of speech, form, symbolism and allusion. That is, the writer should explain the overall meaning of the poem by focusing on how the poet has used these elements of poetry to construct this meaning.
Each “section” of the poem (stanza or grouping of text) should be explicated in a separate paragraph in the essay. What constitutes a “section” is determined by you based upon meaning.
One analogy to describe how an Explication is organized is a thread. By expressing the overall meaning or theme, you are saying that the poem has this particular thread running through it. When you start your Explication, you grab the beginning of that thread, and then you follow the thread as you interpret the poem line by line, stanza by stanza, part by part, from beginning to end (Modified from Laurie Coleman and resources at The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
What is the overview of the poem you have chosen? How would you summarize it in one to two sentences?