What is the theme of the poem "The World Is Too Much with Us, Late and Soon?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One important theme in this poem is the movement of the human race away from its spiritual history and towards modern living. The author sees modern ideas as more shallow, despite their intellectual superiority; he yearns for the more exciting life of "pagans" and their richly-drawn philosophies and superstitions. In the first half, the author describes how people are no longer aware of the sheer beauty of the natural world:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
(Wordsworth, "The World Is Too Much with Us, Late and Soon," bartleby.com)

The author notices that all of nature is now classified and placed under Science; this is not a bad thing, but it removes much of the innate joy and beauty in life and relegates it to simple physical properties. While these can be beautiful, understanding them does not share the same visceral reaction as viewing them in their raw states. For example, the "sea that lays bare its bosom to the moon" is more beautiful in its image and the feelings it evokes, rather than thinking about the speed of reflected moonlight, tidal effects, convection and wave motions, etc. In this manner, the author shows his wish that some of the simpler emotions could still exist; he calls on the old gods of legend to show how natural forces used to be attributed to spiritual means, and how much more aesthetically impressive they were during that time.

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