“The world is too much with us”




The poem I analyse in this paper, “Thr world is too much with us”, is a protest against the path the society of that moment chose and which has followed from then on regarding the care of the environment and of nature. Wordsworth tells us that we have lost our connection with nature and that sometimes it is better to return to a past stage of civilisation if this allows us to enjoy and to be more conscious of the importance of nature.


“The world is too much with us”


1  The world is too much with us; late and soon,
2  Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
3  Little we see in Nature that is ours;
4  We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
5  This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
6  The winds that will be howling at all hours,
7  And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
8  For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
9  It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
10 A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
11 So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
12 Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
13 Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
14 Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.1


Prosodic analysis


 This poem has all the characteristics of a Petrarchan sonnet. This means that its rhyme scheme is ABBA ABBA CDCDCD. The poem is composed of an octave and a sestet. In the former we find the problem that the author poses to the reader and, in the latter, Wordsworth proposes a solution, as we will see later in the interpretation of the poem.2  


 The rhyme in the octave is consonant, although the sestet has two types of rhyme: assonant for the C’s lines and consonant for the D’s lines. This makes me feel that the octave, where Wordsworth poses the problem, is quite compact and solid, giving a sense of completion and strength, having the quality of hardness of the real problem he is talking about and posing to the reader. The mixture of rhyme type in the sestet makes the reader feel the fluidity and the varied character of the solution proposed in it.


Interpretation of the poem


 The poem is centered on the fact that the mankind started to pollute and destroy the nature since the Industrial Revolution, although it had started just a few decades ago and they had not seen its effects enough yet. This already tells us how committed Wordsworth was to the historical moment he was living, how much he realised that the migration from the country to the cities was leading to the destruction of nature, especially because nobody was worrying about whether they were spending too much or not nor even whether they were doing anything to return what has drawn from nature.


 The first line states the core issue that vertebrates the whole poem, that mankind is wasting the world and is destroying it, we are too much for the world, it cannot survive with us in it. In the following three lines, Wordsworth keeps on talking about the core issue and introduces the idea that we had the ability to preserve nature but we are losing it, we disdain it, we cannot see the beauty of nature and we do not make use of our potential, our “powers” to preserve nature.3


 We can see how the first A-A lines have a final clause which is not a sentence in itself because it has not a verb but still enclosing a meaning. I think it gives more power to the concept by simply stating it, showing it, without articulating it, it gives a sense of completeness and therefore, of bluntness.


 Along the lines 5 and 6 William Wordsworth makes use of anthropomorphism and shows us nature in motion, the author shows a few examples of nature’s grandeur: the Sea and its immensity, the moon and its power, the winds and their power. These are examples of what should make a human being feel amazed when staring at nature and Wordsworth is showing them to us to make it even clearer if we have not understood the importance and the greatness of his motives from the very beginning. Then, in the next line, the poet remarks the fragility of these forces of nature by comparing them with sleeping flowers, being the flowers a symbol commonly thought as the prototypical example of weakness despite their beauty, reinforced by the state of slumber, which reduces one’s defenses to the minimum. And if this was not enough, the fact that the author makes use of the passive voice makes us feel that they can be easily controlled by a force external to them.


 In the eighth line, Wordsworth repeats what he had already said in the third line, we are not in tune with nature, and we do not see ourselves reflected in it. The poet restates the immensity of nature by telling the reader that there is more to it than what he has said in the poem, by implicitly saying that “this”, that is, what the author has said in the poem so far, is not everything.


 Despite the fact that the ninth line is part of the sestet, it serves more as a link between the octave and the sestet. In the first part, the poet repeats the octave motif: “It moves us not.” Then, he makes an orthographical break by starting a new sentence and inserting an exclamative sentence in between, which already announces the reader the central idea of the solution: God. This materialises the change of theme from the problem posed from the beginning to the solution starting here. Moreover, this line is the only one in the whole poem where we can find an enjambment, which adds to the difference between the rest of the lines and this one.


 It is also interesting to point out the fact that from the ninth line on, the poet starts talking about himself, whereas Wordsworth has been talking about “us” until now. This makes me think that here the author states a difference between society (we, us) and he himself, and the author strengthens this fact by speaking as something as personal and deep as religion or spirituality, treating it as a choice he would have preferred to make. Wordsworth presents this as something that cannot be undone by the moment of writing the poem, perhaps because, among other reasons, Paganism is no longer a viable choice. (3)


 The last four lines express the poet’s desire to live in a time when religion prepared the mind to appreciate and value nature and when technology and science were not used in ways that damage the Earth. There Wordsworth would be able to see things that now nobody can see because of the differences in religion and beliefs.3


 “The world is too much with us” appeared in 1807 in Poems, in two Volumes, conceived as a verse collection of his poetical production from 1798 to 1807 to establish his reputation, as he was only known for co-authoring Lyrical Ballads with Samuel Taylor Coleridge at that moment.4


 This poem he wrote in 1802, along many others written by him in the early 1800s, shows his critic of the materialism that was corrupting nature at that time and his poetic powers while moulding his words to convey his message.4 However, he would start to decline in his poetry as a result of a change in lifestyle and beliefs around the mid-1810s, becoming a patriotic and conservative public man, and also because of Wordsworth’s living on his capital, facilitated by his job as a Distributor of Stamps of Westmorland in 1813 and his being awarded a civil list pension in 1842, Basil Willey argues.567






(1) “The world is too much with us”, Wikipedia. 25 Nov. 2007, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 27 Nov. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_world_is_too_much_with_us>


(2) “A Close Look at “The World is Too Much with Us” by William W essays”, Mega Essays LLC. , DMCA, 27 Nov. 2007 <http://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/5296.html>



(3) ““The World is Too Much with Us” Analysis”, Progressive U. 5 Oct. 2007, 27 Nov. 2007 <http://www.progressiveu.org/142227-the-world-is-too-much-with-us-analysis>


(4) “William Wordsworth”, Wikipedia. 28 Nov. 2007, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 27 Nov. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wordsworth#Autobiographical_work_and_Poems_in_Two_Volumes>


(5) “SparkNotes: Wordsworth’s Poetry: “The world is too much with us” ”, SparkNotes LLC., 2006, 27 Nov. 2007, <http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/wordsworth/section4.rhtml>


(6) “Ode: On the Intimations of Immortality”, Victorian Web. July 2000, 27 Nov. 2007, <http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/ww/intimations.html>


(7) “William Wordsworth – Biography and Works”, The Literature Network. 2000 – 2007, Jalic Inc., 27 Nov. 2007 <http://www.online-literature.com/wordsworth/>