“The World is Too Much with Us” (circa 1802) is a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. In it, the poet criticizes the world of the first Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and for its people distancing themselves from nature. (Wikipedia)
In the early 19th century, Wordsworth wrote several sonnets blasting what he perceived as "the decadent material cynicism" of the time.
"The World Is Too Much with Us" is one of those works. It reflects his view that humanity must get in touch with nature in order to progress spiritually.
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.
|Triton fountain in Rome|
by Gianlorenzo Bernini
Who among us can fail to see the similarities between the ancient world, as described here by Wordsworth, and the world in which we live today?
As writers and poets, we can all read his words "getting and spending, we lay waste our powers..." and "for everything we are out of tune, it moves us not"... and we can't help but apply those words, from 1802, to life in the 21st century.
Yes, our world has seen changes which, in so many ways, would amaze and even, we suppose, awe Wordsworth, were he to see it today.
However, I doubt if he'd be impressed.
With his discerning eye, the poet would know without doubt that our modern reality bears out his opinion..."we lay waste our powers" indeed.
What would the sea god Triton think of the melting polar ice caps... what could a sea god think as we pollute his very oceans along with the lakes and rivers a poet once could love? ...The rapid extinction of one wild species after another would break a poet's heart... and, of course, war always war, never a decade or even a day without war...what kind of sonnet could Wordsworth write today?
Yes, we "lay waste our powers," and now we have to live in the world that Man's arrogance created. Who of us can really believe that 2017 is better than 1802?
And who among us really cares? "I've got what I want, and the rest of you be damned!" That is the mantra of too many.
RIP, William Wordsworth. Yes, may you rest in peace despite us!
Written for Lady Fi's memorable meme,
Thank you, Fiona, for the world as you see it through your discerning eye, every Tuesday.