Analysis of William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much with Us”
“The World is Too Much with Us” by William Wordsworth is a lyrical poem written in 1802. The poem expresses Wordsworth’s emotions and feelings about the world in the times of industrialization. The disappointment in people’s preoccupation with the material world instead of cherishing nature is revealed through the form of the poem, speaker himself and figurative language.
The poem has a conventional form of Petrarchan sonnet, which means that it has 14 lines and is written in iambic pentameter. The rhyme of the poem differs: the first part - octave (8 lines) has the rhyme ABBAABBA, while the second part of the sonnet, sestet, has the rhyme CDCDCD. The conventional form of the sonnet implies the Wordsworth’s desire not to change the customary way of life at the times of rapid developments. The two parts have also different points made by Wordsworth. Thus, in the first part he angrily criticizes society for being distant from nature, while in the second part despair, loneliness and hopelessness are felt as if Wordsworth doubts whether he should still belong to this community (e.g. “I’d rather be/A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;” (lines 9-10)).
The use of personal pronouns “I”, “we” and “us” makes the reader understand that the speaker in the poem is the poet. The whole poem can be viewed as an interior monologue. Although, the narrator is dissatisfied with the society, he does not separate himself from the community, but instead still pictures the humanity in general and refers to himself and other people as “we”.
The language reveals the speaker’s thoughts and views. The title and the very first line “The world is too much with us;” (1) express the speaker’s feeling of excessive saturation with the “new”, material world. “The world” in this case stays for industrialized and urbanized settings, where people were mostly headed in order to find a better and more comfortable life. The speaker thinks over the world in which people do not value natural powers like the sea and winds anymore. On the contrary, the humanity is attracted to the material, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers” (2). Using personification, Wordsworth creates the feeling that the nature is actually alive. It is particularly vivid in the following lines “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;/The winds that will be howling at all hours” (5-6). Moreover, the Sea has a gender – it is female, and is viewed as real person with the name starting from the capital letter. Moon, apparently, should have a capacity to see “her bosom”. The winds are also personified, since they “will be howling at all hours”, and, it may be suggested that no matter how people behave, the nature will be present at all hours, i.e. it is eternal. In addition, through the simile the winds are compared to flowers as can be seen in the line “And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers” (7). Furthermore, allusion is also used in the poem. “Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;/Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn” (13-14). Wordsworth makes an allusion to Greek mythology. Interestingly, Proteus is a sea god-prophet who avoids answering questions. This leads to the idea, that Wordsworth seeks to know the future, but he is left in ambiguity.
William Wordsworth. “The World is Too Much with Us.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 1 July 2015.