Ecclesiastical Sonnets "High Heaven Rejects The Lore Of Nicely-calculated Less Or More"

William Wordsworth

"High Heaven Rejects The Lore Of Nicely-calculated Less Or More"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: One of the most beautiful buildings at Cambridge University is King's College Chapel, a Gothic church commissioned by Henry VI (1422–1461); however, the chapel cost so much to construct that many of the more critical minds, both while it was being built and later, felt that the expense was disproportionate to its use, for rather than being a public place of worship, it was designed only for the students. Wordsworth, being by nature opposed to the type of thought that measures beauty by practicability, had no patience with these critics; though deeply concerned with the plight of his fellow men, he became more and more conservative as he grew older. Seeing religion as a means whereby men can find the stoic endurance that enables them to withstand great suffering, he expresses his belief in the ability of great beauty, especially that of Christian art, to uplift the worshiper. Such beauty cannot be reckoned in money, only in the spiritual peace that comes to the beholder.

Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely-calculated less or more;
So deemed the man who fashioned for the sense
These lofty pillars, spread that branching roof
Self-poised, and scooped into ten thousand cells,
Where light and shade repose, where music dwells
Lingering–and wandering on as loth to die;
Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality.