The World Is Too Much with Us by William Wordsworth

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What is the universal theme of "The World Is Too Much With Us"?  

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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 universal theme of the poem ought to be obvious, since Wordsworth is speaking for most of us. It is not about love of nature but about the love of material things that infects us all. We become so preoccupied with consumerism that we forget about the beauty around us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American philosopher who once had the pleasure of meeting Wordsworth in person on his trip to England, wrote: "Things are in the saddle and ride mankind." This was way back at the beginning of the nineteenth century when consumerism could hardly have been running rampant, as it is today, because there weren't so many things to consume. That was fortunate because it was a whole lot harder to earn money.

Wordsworth may have become a nature poet by necessity. It was much cheaper living in the country than in the city, and a man who earned his living by writing could live almost anywhere. According to the eNotes Study Guide (see reference link below), Wordsworth wrote his sonnet "The World Is Too Much With Us" in 1807. He was the sole support of his sister Dorothy and got married to a childhood sweetheart named Mary, thus becoming responsible for the support of three adults including himself. Then he and Mary began having children, as married couples will, and had a child in 1803, another in 1804, and another in 1806.

So Wordsworth, who was trying to make a living writing poetry, had a small cottage housing three adults and three babies, two of whom were suffering from whooping cough at about the time he began to feel that the world is too much with us. It...

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