The World Is Too Much with Us

by William Wordsworth

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Describe the structure of “The World Is Too Much with Us.”

The poem “The World Is Too Much with Us” is structured as a fourteen-line Italian (Petrachan) sonnet. It consists of an eight-line octave followed by a six-line sestet. The poem makes use of iambic pentameter in most of the lines and has a rhyme scheme of abbaabba cdcdcd.

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The World Is Too Much with Us” is an Italian sonnet. These sonnets are also termed Petrarchan sonnets.

Ensure you understand the format of a typical Italian sonnet. As with other sonnets, it consists of fourteen lines. The first fourteen lines form a thematic unit known as the octave. Generally, the octave introduces the topic explored in the poem by means of a statement, question, argument, or description. The last six lines of the poem are known as the sestet. A change occurs between the octave and sestet. The sestet will focus on an answer or alternative way of examining the statement, argument, or description from the octave. The point in the poem where the change occurs between the octave and sestet is known as the volta.

Wordsworth’s poem follows the structure of an Italian sonnet. The first eight lines focus on Wordsworth’s lament that humanity is too disconnected from nature. This is introduced in the first line, “The world is too much with us,” and continues thematically till the middle of line 9: “It moves us not.” In this octave, he describes how humanity is focused too much on the “world” and civilization. This causes the disconnect between humans and all the beautiful natural and spiritual images that are elaborated on in the octave.

The volta, or turning point, is shifted to the middle of line 9. It is a significant shift which is marked by a dash, emotive interjection, and an exclamation mark. After this, lines 9 through 14 focus on the speaker’s response to the problem in the octave. The sestet suggests that he would rather remove himself from civilization and that he yearns for a life in the past where humanity was more connected to the natural and spiritual world. Thus, the octave presents the problem, and the sestet presents the speaker’s response to the problem.

Sonnets also make use of a particular meter or rhythm in each line. In this case, the sonnet structure includes the use of iambic pentameter. This means there are five units per line. Each unit is called an iamb and consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. This poem does, however, have some lines which deviate from this rhythm. This could be seen to support the speaker’s claim that humanity is no longer in rhythm with nature.

Sonnets have a particular rhyme scheme. The rhyme of the octave is abbaabba, and the rhyme of the sestet is cdcdcd.

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