The poem “The World is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth has long been regarded as a powerful critique of the materialistic and consumer-driven society of its time. Published in 1807, this sonnet captures the poet’s lament over the loss of connection between humanity and the natural world. In a world driven by industrialization, progress, and an overwhelming obsession with possessions, Wordsworth’s poem serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of appreciating the beauty of nature and the need for a simpler, more balanced existence.
It is one of the finest and most forceful of Wordsworth’s sonnets in which the poet condemns in strong words the excessive materialistic attitude of the people of his age. The modern man is so much engrossed in worldly affairs, all his energies are so much directed to earning and spending money,- that he has little time or inclination to appreciate the beauties of Nature. Love of money has blinded him the wealth of Nature. The great spiritual powers which God has given him are simply wasted in the mad pursuit after wealth and worldly prosperity. He has revered his bonds from Nature, and does not realize the relationship that exists between him and Nature. This is indeed a very sorry state of affairs. The poet wants to say that love of money cannot be a substitute for love of Nature. He wants people to return to Nature; to derive inspiration and noble impulses from Nature. In his attack on the materialism of his age Wordsworth anticipates Matthew Arnold who also makes scathing criticism of the materialistic attitude of the people of his age in The Scholar Gipsy and Thyrsis. Both Wordsworth and Arnold are opposed to too much preoccupation with money matters. Man lives on a higher plane than merely physical and nature will help him to realize his true self.
In this sonnet Wordsworth has given beautiful pictures of the calm and subdued aspects of nature. The description of the calm night, the silent sea, and the silver moonlight are very vivid and picturesque. The imagery in line 5 is very poetic and appealing. The beauty of the sea in the moonlight is spoken of in terms of the sea exposing her bosom to the moon. Similarly, the calm and quiet winds are pictured as flowers folding their petals at night-
“The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers.”
Indeed, the description of the deep calm and peace in the world of nature is a special feature of Wordsworth’s nature-poetry. He loves the calm and peaceful aspects of Nature, and not her stormy or angry moods.
Disgusted with the crude materialism of his age, Wordsworth wants to go back to the old pagan times when people led a simple and unsophisticated life and worshipped Nature. He feels lonely in the company of the money-minded Englishmen of his age. He emphatically says that the Christians have sacrificed their spirituality and love for nature at the altar of materialism. He does not want to stick to a religious faith the followers of which waste their spiritual powers in “getting and spending.” He, therefore, prefers to adhere to old paganism because it would offer him an opportunity to keep close contact with nature and enjoy the presence of Greek gods and goddesses. Belief in paganism would enable him to see the visions of such deities as Proteus and Triton that would dispel his loneliness even in a lonely place.
The sonnets of Wordsworth quite often show the influence of Milton. Like the sonnets of Milton this sonnet is also written on the Italian or Petrarchan model. It is divided into two parts- an octave and a sestet. The octave (first eight lines) has the fixed conventional rhyme scheme-abba abba. The rhyme scheme of the sestet (last six lines) is c d c, d c d. The sonnet, however, does not strictly follow the break in the development of thought after line 8. The thought of the octave is carried into the 9th line with the words “It moves us not.” In the conventional sonnets on the Petrarchan model, there is a definite break in the thought after the first eight lines. But even then, in this sonnet, we see the double division of the idea. In the octave the poet condemns the materialistic tendencies of his age, and in the sestet he declares the superiority of paganism over Christianity in respect of man’s love for Nature. The sonnet as a whole is concerned with man’s obsession with wealth and separation from nature which, according to Wordsworth, is the chief cause of all his ills. The poem is remarkable for its concentration of thought and forceful expression.
Despite being written over two centuries ago, Wordsworth’s message in “The World is Too Much With Us” remains strikingly relevant today. Our society is still plagued by materialism, disconnection from nature, and a lack of appreciation for the arts. We are reminded that the pursuit of a balanced and fulfilling life requires us to step back from the relentless pursuit of possessions and reconnect with the beauty that surrounds us.
Wordsworth’s poem serves as a call to action, urging us to reflect on our own lives and make changes that will lead us to a more balanced existence. It prompts us to take a step back, to reevaluate our priorities, and to find solace in the beauty of art, nature, and meaningful connections. By heeding this call, we can find a sense of purpose and a deeper fulfillment in our lives.
The World is too much with us
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