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Poetry Analysis: The World is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth
By G K Fralin   

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I forever consider myself a student of literature as well as an author. By treking through the history of poets and poetry, I begin to feel a connection. I feel a connection to the poets and history. The evolving of the science and etheral natures of the art inspire.

 

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland England’s lake district. Wordsworth developed a great love of nature. The English industrial revolution was in its prime. The political climate in France and between France and Britain became hostile and he had to return to England.
 
He had traveled in his youth to France and fell in love with a French girl Annette Vallon whom he impregnated.   It was at this time he had to return to England leaving Annette behind. He never met his daughter Anne Caroline until ten years later. He never married Annette but did support her and Anne Caroline throughout his life.
 
Wordsworth was one of several “romantic” poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries known today as English Romantic Poets.  He worked and published extensively with Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”   The two were also known as the “lake poets”.
 
The term romantic was applied to Wordsworth and his fellows much later by scholars.  Wordsworth defined his work as experimental because they were devoted to nature and the free flow of emotion and what he called the “real language of men.” This began a deviation from the language style of the Jacobean poets.  “The World is Too Much With Us” is a great example of Wordsworth’s devotion to writing lyric sonnets. He also wrote a work called “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” later known as the “manifest” of English Romantic poetry.   It is interesting that he wrote many of his sonnets, not in the traditional Shakespearian style, but in the Italian style. 
 
 
In “The World is Too Much With Us” Wordsworth is lamenting societies need and greed for money and things.  The industrial age was bringing in steam locomotives, machines and factories. He’d lost both parents when he was young and remained close to his sister. He was caught in the middle of political upheavals of France and between France and England. His life by this time must have seemed very noisy and out of control.
 
The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
In the first lines we immediately see his complaint.   The world if often used in writing to refer to the ‘ways of the world’ or ‘worldly’. The words “late and soon” are part of a list continuing in the next line “getting and spending.”   The line break is for the purpose of the structure of the sonnet. Late and soon refers to the fast pace of the age. “I’m always late but it’s much too soon for me” is how I interpret these two words. I much prefer his brevity.
“Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Here he makes a statement that has been the cry of many over the centuries.   We let our progress take away the wonders of nature to the point we don’t notice it. This does sound like a country boy. The word ‘boon’ means advantage, or benefit. By putting the words sordid and boon together, he is plainly saying that it is a disgusting or distasteful benefit. These two words cancel out each other in a division which puts our hearts at risk of losing our love for the simple and natural.
“This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,”
The above four lines emphasize his point. Up-gathered like sleeping flowers is an image he uses to make the point of how the “winds that will be howling at all hours” are internal noises, or the noise of industry at all hours. The noise could be either internal or external, but the simile of the up-gathered flowers indicates that the hours (changes and fast pace) are stealing away harmonious unity with nature.
“It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;”
This is like an expletive. The above two lines are the venting of his anger. He’d rather be like a pagan, for instance believing in ancient Greek gods celebrating nature, than part of a world that is destroying nature’s beauty and calling itself Christian.
He is not saying he doesn’t believe in God. Instead he expresses his anger at the world to God and possibly even at God.
 
“So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”
 
 
 
I can picture Wordsworth yelling these lines angrily standing on the shore and shaking a fist. He feels it would be so much simpler to go back the pagan beliefs of the Greeks of giving a sense of divine to all things of nature. Proteus was one of the mythological Greek gods of the sea, and Triton was the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite whose horn was a conch shell for calming or stirring the waters. 
 
Even though Wordsworth felt the need for letting powerful emotions flow
spontaneously on to the page, he also held that poetry needed to have a poetic tone and form. The body of William Wordsworth’s works is vast. Many of his poems were published after his death; however, he did publish much during his life as well. He was well educated, traveled extensively, and often dedicated his poetry to people, places and events.
Wordsworth was not the first poet or author to lament man’s disrespect for nature. He appreciated the pastoral poem and introduced the age of the Romantic poets along with his friend and mentor Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth and Coleridge shared many ideas on poetry, nature, and published together. Wordsworth’s reputation grew in England throughout his life because of his many works and their quality. After Robert Southey died in 1846 Wordsworth was named poet Laureate of England, a high honor.
 please use the link below to access a reading of this poem
 
 
 
 


 
 
 



 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 



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