Romanticism as an artistic and literary movement began in the late eighteenth century and continued until the mid-nineteenth century. The beginning of the Romantic Movement in England is said to be the publication in 1798 of the Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Romanticism offered a rebellion against rationalism and emphasized emotion, imagination, individualism, spontaneity, and an appreciation for natural beauty.
In the poem "The World Is Too Much with Us," we find rejection of the rational, ordered, and materialistic contemporary society, with its emphasis on the importance of finances. Instead, Wordsworth emphasizes the romantic trait of appreciation of the beauties and wonders of nature. He displays romantic individualism in his declaration that he would rather be pagan than lose his attachment to the glories of nature.
By "the world," Wordsworth means the material, financial world of "getting and spending." He emphasizes that this causes us to "lay waste our powers" as humans because "we have given our hearts away." He calls this a "sordid boon." A boon is a benefit or blessing, but when it is sordid, it has become vile, filthy, wretched, and squalid.
Wordsworth then gives examples of the wonders of nature, such as the moon shining on the sea and howling winds. As mentioned above, appreciation of nature is a romantic trait. He says that people are no longer moved by these things, and this makes them out of tune. For this reason, he prefers to be a pagan, so that he can reconnect with the primal thrill of nature and lose the "forlorn" feeling that contemporary society, with its emphasis on money and material things, imparts.
To emphasize his point, Wordsworth mentions two ancient pagan gods. In Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god who was ever-changing and had the ability to give prophecies. Triton was another sea god, with a shape like a merman; he had a conch shell that he would blow like a horn.