Poetry 109: The world is too much with us by William Wordsworth


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.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

2 thoughts on “Poetry 109: The world is too much with us by William Wordsworth

  1. I think it’s a glorious sonnet: crafted, so far as I can bring my amateur literary judgement to bear, with wonderful rhyme, rhythm, imagery, cadences and all the other poetic fol-de-rols that Wordsworth is able to muster.

    Only a possible touch of sentimentality strikes an uneasy chord. I can understand the poet’s wistfulness about simpler more innocent minds in simpler more innocent times. But can one be sure that the pagan’s era was any less challenging on its own terms than our own, or in some way more wholesome and uncomplicated than our own, or indeed than Wordsworth’s own? I’m not sure myself; but I find the verse magnificent and moving all the same.

  2. I don’t take Wordsworth to be recommending paganism, which he describes as a ‘creed outworn’, but rather engaging with it as an aspect of what it would mean to be more fully open to the experience of his environment. This is a lament for the ways in which the overbearing left hemisphere can shut us off from the most profound experiences.

    My favourite lines are “The winds that will be howling at all hours,/ And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers”, because of the way the violence of the wind is contained and put into perspective by the gentle image of the flowers. Wordsworth has that ability to move between the extremes, and yet contain them in a single meaningful flow, like a concert pianist moving from fortissimo to pianissimo.

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