On the 3rd of September 1802 William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were both moved by the sight of London spread out before them as they viewed it from Westminster Bridge. Dorothy recorded her impressions in her diary:
“…the sun shone so brightly, with such a pure light, that there was something like the purity of one of nature’s own grand spectacles.”
And William was inspired to write one of his most famous sonnets:
Composed Upon Westminster Bridge
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!
It seems to me that there are two sides to every coin, two faces to ever view. Wordsworth saw the majesty and beauty of his capital city from a famous bridge and yesterday we saw the strange fruits of terrorism strung out along that same bridge – men, women and children mown down by a stranger in a hired car.
It seems to me also that for every hate-filled, lone revolutionary who somehow concludes that his political beliefs make it OK for him to kill or injure a random group of people who just happened to be crossing a particular bridge at a particular moment in time, there is an unarmed policeman willing to be stabbed to death to prevent him from entering the Houses of Parliament. I think of the blood-smeared face of an MP trying unsuccessfully to keep him alive until the ambulance came.
I think of all those bodies on the bridge but also of the doctors running out of hospitals and along the bridge to help the wounded. I think of every injured or dying person on the pavement surrounded by a crowd of passers-by whose instinct was to stop, try to help, reassure or just keep them company in their hour of need.
I think of the police giving first aid to the terrorist they had just been forced to shoot, and of the medics who afforded the same care to him as to his victims.
And it seems to me that for every wound inflicted there is a great flowering of fellow-feeling and human kindness, and that compassion will always overcome, in the end.