The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In “The World Is Too Much with Us,” William Wordsworth offers his reader a sonnet, albeit an idiosyncratic one that deliberately ignores or adapts the traditional sonnet conventions to convey its theme. The sonnet is typically a poem composed of fourteen lines that features two “movements”: an octave, or opening set of eight lines, that presents a dilemma or conflict, the resolution to which is offered in the closing sestet, or set of six lines. Besides this structural convention, the traditional Italian sonnet, which is the basic form the poet builds upon, also features an abba, abba, cde, cde rhyme scheme, in which each letter represents a new end rhyme for each line.

Wordsworth elects, however, to manipulate both conventions and substitute his own formula instead. Rather than the traditional octave and sestet, there is only a brief break, or caesura, in line 9 to distance the previous lines from those that follow; the effect is that the reader immediately is transported into the climactic declaration of line 9. Similarly, the poet also posits his own rhyme scheme, beginning with the traditional abba form, but ending ostentatiously with three rhymed couplets.

These decisions to forgo convention are part of the poet’s Romantic temperament and his thematic tendencies. In effect, the form of the sonnet embodies the poet’s theme. Wordsworth—the most respectful of tradition among the clan...

(The entire section is 576 words.)