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What is the meaning of "The world is too much with us" by William Wordsworth?

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coralys | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 20, 2008 at 1:16 AM via web

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What is the meaning of "The world is too much with us" by William Wordsworth?

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted April 20, 2008 at 1:27 AM (Answer #1)

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This beautiful poem discusses the separation of man from nature in his quest for more and more material wealth.  The second and third lines really express this theme:

"Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;"

A perfect poem for the upcoming Earth Day, don't you think? :)

Check the link below for more information!  Good luck!

Sources:

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 20, 2008 at 1:47 AM (Answer #2)

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Wordsworth was a foreward thinking, already noting the "revolution" that was happening as industrialization swept through England.  In the late 1700s, the mechanization of many production systems and the new possibilities for trade helped to explode industry.  People flocked to the cities for jobs in factories, knowing that they could make more money and better provide for their families than if they remained in the country.  Rural and agricultural communities were changed forever by this emigration, as were family dynamics.  Businesses and individuals were working longer and harder, and moving a much faster pace than was typical in pastoral England.   

Wordsworth firmly believed that humanity was giving up its soul - and individuality - to the pursuit of money.  "We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"  The hearts became a part of the machinery of industry.  When he says "we are out of tune", he is making a firm criticism of society's behavior.  This is followed up by making what would have been at the time a controversial statement - that he would rather be a pagan (than a Christian) because, at least then, he would have harmony with nature and, thus, with himself.

Wordsworth helps to usher in the Romantic era of literature with this poem, when many more authors will extol the virtues of respecting and "being at one" with nature.

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