The World is Too Much With Us …

I memorized this poem, a sonnet written by William Wordsworth in 1802, when I was in Grade 6 or 7. I now only ever remember the first lines, but they came back to me yesterday, as if out of nowhere (it’s amazing the details my memory-challenged brain remembers, and when) while I was thinking about Hurricane Sandy, other hurricanes and extreme weather I’ve known and experienced, the presidential race, my own personal life/work situation that is currently evolving, and just the general state of the world today – especially this materialistic (and greedy!) society that has developed over these past years, decades. centuries. Heavy stuff, I know, but it’s all coming together, like a perfect storm in my mind, and has caused the words of this poem to return to me. I realize now that, 210 years after they were written, these words are still very significant in at least describing what is going on today, if not to answer a solution – besides just pulling away from the world altogether and living a monastic or hermetic life. (Goodbye, social media?)

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

It’s very significant, to me, that Wordsworth criticizes the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature and that he wrote several sonnets blasting what he perceived as “the decadent material cynicism of the time.” It reflects his philosophy that humanity must get in touch with nature in order to progress spiritually. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

For me, this sonnet is so contemporary, expressing as it does the way of the world right now. Or the way I see the way of the world.

I think I may be coming down with a bout of Melancholia, just like Wordsworth and the other Romantic Poets suffered from time to time … there’s no flu shot for that, I’m afraid.

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2 responses

  1. Very appropriate poem right now!

    1. Thanks, Rachel. And I should have added, “The state of publishing, books, and writing right now” as being another reason for my melancholia. Nothing but bad news surrounding my life and livelihood these days.

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