William Wordsworth's "The world is too much with us; late and soon" - Owlcation - Education
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William Wordsworth's "The world is too much with us; late and soon"

Poetry became my passion after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class circa 1962.

William Wordsworth

Introduction and Text of "The world is too much with us; late and soon"

William Wordsworth's Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet, "The world is too much with us, late and soon" is played out in an octave that presents a problem and a sestet that dramatizes a potential solution.

The speaker feels that people have become too materialistic, and he would have them turn their vision to the spiritual level of being that appreciates the natural world. He wishes he had been born in earlier times when materialism had not held such sway in the lives of the population.

The world is too much with us; late and soon

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!
The 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.

Reading of “The world is too much with us; late and soon”

Commentary

The speaker in this Petrarchan sonnet wishes to go back to paganism while still retaining the values of post-enlightenment Christianity.

The Octave: Too Busy to Live

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!
The 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

This speaker is deeply influenced by the Romantic notion that nature is godlike. He believes the world has become a place that is "too much for us,” with people working busily and greedily for money and things. This toil leaves them no time to enjoy the gifts of the natural world. Modern individuals have abandoned their own souls in favor of worldly striving. They pay no attention to the yearnings of the heart. The mind has become too involved. Feeling is subjugated as, "We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"

This speaker does retain the ability to discern fine feelings and soul qualities as he describe the beauty of the ocean remaining the same in relationship to the moon, and the wind continues to “howl” anytime it pleases, and these natural phenomena come together and stand as a beautiful bouquet of roses. His acute discernments are not typical responses, as he would have readers understand; for most folks, he asserts it is true that things have gone “out of tune” with all the hustle and bustle and lack of leisure time.

Every age has those who observe natural, soul qualities and follow a spiritual life, as well as those who are grossly materialistic in their thinking and behavior. Those out-of-tune folks are to be pitied and lamented as they remain oblivious of the finer gifts of nature and nature's Divinity. This speaker decries the "Industrial Revolution" that has caused hulking, dirty factories to be built for producing things. He feels that too much space and time are being taken up just to manufacture things. And too much time is spent by the populace just working to attain those things.

The Sestet: Get Back to Nature

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.

The speaker becomes very animated about the issue. He insists that he would have preferred to live in earlier times when people appreciated natural objects like the ocean, the moon and stars, and the breezes that cool the land.

The speaker goes to the extreme of wishing he could have been born a Pagan. If he had been able to learn about the ancient gods, he believes he would be more perceptive and would be able to detect "Proteus rising from the sea." He would also have been able to hear "old Triton blow his wreathed horn."

The Dramatization of Pure Feeling

The speaker's stated wishes are, of course, the stuff of pure fantasy, but his purpose is not to engage logic and reason; he wants to dramatize the efficacy of feeling and admiration over the acquisition of material objects.

This speaker, who is the product of post-enlightenment Christianity and who is also learnèd in the great literature of the world, has the vision to realize that a spiritual life needs to guide mankind always or else that "sordid boon," the heart, will be given away permanently.

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on February 24, 2020:

Thank you, Lorna! I agree with you; Wordsworth is always a pleasurable read. The beauty of his expression demonstrates his fine craftsmanship.

Many blessing coming your way, Lorna.

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on February 24, 2020:

Donna Rayne, thank you for the kind words. It's always heartening to hear the my article had offered something valuable to a reader. Wordsworth if always worth a close study. The beauty of his poems continues to shine down through the centuries.

Blessings to you and yours, Donna!

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on February 24, 2020:

Thank you, Umesh Chandra Bhatt! Wordsworth is certainly one of the greats, the best of the Romantics. His works always enlighten as well as entertain and educate.

Blessings for you and yours, Umesh!

Lorna Lamon on February 24, 2020:

I love the works of William Wordsworth and I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent article Linda.

Donna Rayne from Greenwood, In on February 23, 2020:

Linda, this is a great article and I certainly learned a lot and enjoyed the poem. Thank you for sharing it. You did a great job!

All my best,

Donna Rayne

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 23, 2020:

Good elaboration. Nice article.

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