London's "Millennium Wheel" bungles Wordsworth

The poet's sonnet makes no sense and no one notices.

Published May 24, 2000 8:00AM (EDT)

"The river glideth at his own sweet asleep." For a long time, that was
the last thing riders of the London Eye, the world's biggest Ferris wheel,
read before being whisked into the sky for spectacular views of the city.

The line appeared on a plaque featuring William Wordsworth's Sept. 3, 1802,
sonnet, "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," and it took five months
before anybody noticed that it didn't make a lick of sense.

Or perhaps many realized the line didn't make sense, but chalked it up to
their ignorance of poetry. It took 830,000 rides for someone to recognize
that the 12th and 13th lines had been blended and butchered.

The plaque should have read:

"The river that glideth at his own sweet will:/Dear God! The very houses
seem asleep."

"Dear God" is right. According to the BBC, a lone literate rider blew the
whistle on British Airways, the Eye's primary sponsor and the company
responsible for creating the plaque. The airline is fixing Wordsworth's
immortal words.

The London Eye, also known as the "Millennium Wheel," opened in January
at a cost of #20 million (about U.S.$30 million) -- none of which, apparently,
went to a copy editor. And nobody noticed anyway. What does that say
about the craft of writing? It says I should have been an accountant.

By J.A. Getzlaff

J.A. Getzlaff's Daily Planet appears every weekday. Do you have a tip or tale for J.A.? Send it to

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