Name three cultural or societal institutions the speaker believes have fallen into stagnation.

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In the first octet (eight lines) of this sonnet, Wordsworth says that the three cultural institutions of "altar, sword, and pen" have become stagnant in England. By this, he means that the church, the military, and the literary world have fallen into a torpid or tired state of stagnation. They...

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In the first octet (eight lines) of this sonnet, Wordsworth says that the three cultural institutions of "altar, sword, and pen" have become stagnant in England. By this, he means that the church, the military, and the literary world have fallen into a torpid or tired state of stagnation. They have, the speaker states, given up their ancient legacy of happiness. Selfishness has undone these once-glorious institutions and proud emblems of English civilization. The speaker calls for a return to what he perceives as the traditional British values of "virtue, freedom, power."

In the last sestet (six lines) of the poem, the speaker looks back with nostalgia on what he perceives as England's lost greatness. He asks that the country be returned to a time when its soul was like a star and its voice pure like the sea. In those days, the country was "majestic" and "free." It was cheerful and godly and not ashamed to take on the lowest kinds of duties.

Like many people, the speaker glances back with longing to an idealized time in Britain's past, perceiving the current state of public institutions as decayed in contrast. He would like the three institutions of the church, the military, and literature to reanimate themselves and become central to civic life again, inspiring England with a renewed spirit.

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