The World Is Too Much with Us

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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 wreathèd horn.

"The World Is Too Much with Us" is a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. In it, Wordsworth criticizes the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature. Composed circa 1802, the poem was first published in Poems, In Two Volumes (1807). Like most Italian sonnets, its 14 lines are written in iambic pentameter.

Contents

Theme

In the early 19th century, Wordsworth wrote several sonnets blasting what he perceived as "the decadent material cynicism of the time." [1] "The World Is Too Much with Us" is one of those works. It reflects his philosophy that humanity must get in touch with nature in order to progress spiritually.[1] The rhyme scheme of this poem is a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a, c-d-c-d, c-d. This Italian sonnet uses the last six lines (sestet) to answer the first eight lines (octave). The first eight lines (octave) are the problem and the next six (sestet) is the solution.

Summary

Wordsworth gives a fatalistic view of the world, past and future. The words "late and soon" in the opening verse describe how the past and future are included in his characterization of mankind. The author knows the potential of humanity's "powers," but fears it is clouded by the mentality of "getting and spending." The "sordid boon" we have "given our hearts" is the materialistic progress of mankind. The detriment society has on the environment will proceed unchecked and relentless like the "winds that will be howling at all hours".

Unlike society, Wordsworth does not see nature as a commodity. The verse "Little we see in Nature that is ours", shows that coexisting is the relationship envisioned. This relationship appears to be at the mercy of mankind because of the vulnerable way nature is described. The verse "This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon", gives the vision of a feminine creature opening herself to the heavens above. The phrase "sleeping flowers" might also describe how nature is being overrun unknowingly and is helpless.

The verse "I, standing on this pleasant lea, have glimpses that would make me less forlorn", reveals Wordsworth's perception of himself in society: a visionary romantic more in touch with nature than his contemporaries.

Conventions

Metaphor “we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon” Sordid- demonstrating the worst aspects of human nature such as immorality, selfishness and greed. Boon- something that functions as a blessing or benefit.

Contradiction between words suggests materialism is a destructive and corrupt blessing that the industrial revolution has produced. It emphasised the tension between the good exterior and the sordid truth behind materialism. On the exterior, material goods bring pleasure and in many ways are a symbol of man’s progress; however, in truth, they feed the worst aspects of humanity (greed).

Sonnet form •Ironic-Wordsworth employs a strictly structured form which conforms to a set of strict conventions. Creates a tension between the emotional, natural, fluid themes explored in the poem and the structured form of the sonnet. Mirrors what was occurring at the time in which artists and poets were rebelling in the structured world of the neoclassical period.

•Employing the familiar with the new and revolutionary-Wordsworth uses the familiar structure of the sonnet as well as referencing to familiar ancient Gods (in the authors context they would have been familiar) to persuade the reader to engage in a positive way to the concepts addressed. The unfamiliar or unknown is always feared and suppressed thus by incorporating the familiar with the revolutionary the reader in the 19th century is more likely to engage positively with Wordsworth’s message.

Repetition and rhyming scheme -Repetitive rhyming scheme ABBAABBA “getting and spending” “late and soon” emphasises the monotonous nature of modern life and materialism. Getting and spending, cluster of longer emphasised words with many consonants words are drawn out when read.

-In essence materialism is just that getting and spending it is devoid of emotion or a true fulfilling purpose no life of flare as shown in the language. This positions the reader to engage negatively with the glorification of materialism and industrialization.

-In many ways the stereotypes of man and woman mirror the difference between the neoclassical and romantic period between civilized and nature. Men in this context are associated with rationality, strength, order and power, whereas the feminine is associated with emotion and the imagination.

-Capitalization of the word Sea makes it a name. The idea that nature is not a commodity but an equal to man is demonstrated in the line ‘little we see in nature that is ours’. This implies that Wordsworth envisions an equal relationship between man and nature

Music and Harmony ‘for this for everything we are out of tune’ -Implies that man is out of tune with nature, unable to live in harmony. Through describing this as a tune this demonstrates Wordsworth’s use of the sense experience in his poetry.

-From his defensive writings ‘sense the music of the poem’

-Wordsworth’s poetry has lyrical harmonies

Collective pronoun -Wordsworth uses the words "we" and "us". This involves and includes the reader once again positioning reader to engage positively.

Imagery "and are up gathered now like sleeping flowers" -Sleeping flowers suggest that man is numb and in a way dead and unaware of the beauty and power of the natural world. -However there is also a certain optimismàsleeping flowers implies that humans are dormant in other words there is some hope wake up and realize the power of nature.

Punctuation -Many commas and semicolons create pauses that instill reflection in the reader. In each pause the reader is given space to contemplate and engage with the message.

References

  1. ^ a b Phillips, Brian. SparkNotes on Wordsworth's Poetry. "The world is too much with us." 17 Aug. 2007. http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/wordsworth/section4.rhtml