It was one of my favorite places to take a visiting friend at night, Westminster Bridge. Maybe walk all the way from Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall, pointing out Downing Street, empty under the cover of dark.
Or maybe exiting the Westminster tube station, and finding oneself right across from Big Ben. Veering left, a short skip to the bridge. Letting the chest hit the parapet and turning the gaze to the right, to take in the spires of the Parliament, the light glowing from the Gothic windows reflected in the murky waters underneath.
At night, always at night, the later the better to imagine other lives, different times.
The Palace of Westminster, once home to kings, burnt down. Twice. In the 1500s and the 1800s. Twice rebuilt. Because symbols, and beauty, matter.
Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
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 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!
Poem unearthed by full-time LondonerEddie C.