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Please explain these lines from "The World Is Too Much With Us": The winds that will be...

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted May 8, 2013 at 4:57 PM via web

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Please explain these lines from "The World Is Too Much With Us":

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2013 at 5:42 PM (Answer #1)

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When the speaker (or Wordsworth) writes that the "world is too much with us" he means that the world is too bogged down with institutions, organizations, industrialization, and the repetitive buying and selling ("Getting and spending"), which structure daily life. This is to say that people have become too mechanical and rigid. In other words, people are wasting their "powers" and they've ceased to genuinely experience life: 

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 

Therefore, being caught up in our daily habits of buying, selling, working, etc., we have forgotten to notice Nature's grandeur and our place in it. We have forgotten to notice the ebb and flow of the sea in relation to the moon. We hear the wind but we ignore its song. We gather its song up "like sleeping flowers" as if it were lifeless. Again, being caught up in the "getting and spending" of life, we have come to be out of tune with Nature: out of tune with the song of the winds. We ignore or no longer notice this tune: "It moves us not." 

The speaker then claims that he'd rather be a Pagan with a more primitive philosophical outlook than ascribe to the institutions (social, economic, and even religious) of modern daily life. The speaker would rather return to a more natural, imaginative, and even ancient outlook where he might have thoughts of mythical characters: symbols which are more connected to the imagination and Nature itself. 

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 20, 2014 at 10:11 PM (Answer #2)

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The speaker appears to be standing by himself looking out at the ocean. The line preceding the three you have quoted should also be included in this explication.

This sea that bears her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are upgathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune.

The sea and the winds are two aspects of nature which the speaker claims we can no longer see or appreciate because we have gotten so involved in getting and spending: making money and buying things, and then needing to make more money to buy more things. 

Notice how Wordsworth uses alliteration to highlight the image of the winds. There are echoing OW sounds in "howling" and "hours," and there are three W sounds in the same line in "winds," "will," and "howling." The winds are not blowing at present, so they seem to him to be gathered in a bundle like sleeping flowers.

Since he is standing in a place overlooking the ocean it is natural and appropriate that the images of Proteus and Triton should occur to him. 

Wordsworth published this poem in 1807. By this time he had three small children to support, plus his wife, his sister Dorothy, and himself. He was undoubtedly feeling financial pressure which was interfering with his creativity. At one time two of his children had hooping cough together. The world was getting to be a little bit too much with Wordsworth. 

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