The World Is Too Much with Us

by William Wordsworth

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

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The central theme of "The World is Too Much With Us" is the loss of mankind's connection to nature due to the rise of industrialism and the pursuit of worldly success. Wordsworth criticizes society's obsession with commercial endeavors, which blinds people to the beauty of the world and reduces life to the acquisition of wealth. He expresses a longing for the reverence ancient pagans had for nature, suggesting that they understood life as more than just worldly pursuits.

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In "The World is Too Much With Us," the speaker laments the loss of man's intimate connection to the natural world in the wake of industrialism and a greater desire for worldly success. When Wordsworth uses the term "world," he is not describing the planet but society. In his view, society is obsessed with "[g]etting and spending," commercial endeavors and making as much money as possible. This blinds people to the greater beauty of the world and in a way, strips life of any greater meaning beyond the acquisition of wealth.

The final portion of the poem features the speaker wishing he had lived as a pagan in antiquity because he feels ancient peoples had a better appreciation for nature than modern people do:

... Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Triton and Proteus were sea deities. The speaker is not expressing a desire to worship these old gods or even necessarily speaking out against the dominant Christian religion of his homeland, but he is expressing an appreciation for how the pagans had greater reverence for nature and perhaps saw their lives as something beyond the worldly. Instead of seeing nature as something to be exploited, the pagan as described by Wordsworth feels both in awe of and a part of nature, giving his life greater spiritual meaning beyond money.

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In "The World Is Too Much With Us" Wordsworth laments the way in which modern-day commercial society has eaten away at man's soul, turning him into little more than a consumer of goods obsessed with "getting and spending".

As a Romantic poet, Wordsworth believes that creation is an organic whole in which man and nature are joined together as one. In becoming more worldly, in allowing our whole identities to be determined by the values of industrial capitalism, we are separating ourselves from what we really are. Instead of the headlong pursuit of wealth and goods, we should concern ourselves with remaining in close communication with nature, living in harmony with our natural surroundings.

Yet modern man has become out of tune with nature, and Wordsworth is keen for him to reestablish that broken connection, to revitalize his corrupted soul, even if it means adopting a kind of pagan mindset.

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The theme of "The World Is Too Much with Us" is that humankind has forsaken the soul and individuality for money and material gain. By rejecting a connection to nature, which enriches the soul, people have lost sight of the true meaning and purpose of human existence.

A great lover of nature, William Wordsworth often wrote his poetry while out on walks in the countryside, where it was peaceful and he could enjoy the loveliness of the world. He chose the sonnet form for this poem because of its order and discipline and rhetorical force, feeling that this form was appropriate to express his strong "moral sentiment":

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!

In these lines Wordsworth denounces the materialism that he has observed in people after the Industrial Revolution: "For this, for everything, we are out of tune." This belief in materialism, Wordsworth feels, prevents people from realizing the true meaning and purpose of life.

The speaker of this poem declares that he would rather be a pagan who worships nature in "a creed outworn" than be someone who embraces a spiritually empty materialism. At least as a pagan, there is joy and spiritual enrichment in the communion with the beauty and life of the world:

Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn:
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn

Like so many of his poems, "The World Is Too Much with Us" directs his readers to what Wordsworth called "a moral sentiment," as he perceives his time as a decadent era.

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The theme of illusion versus reality is a dominant one in "The World is Too Much with Us."

In the poem, Wordsworth reminds the reader that illusion should not be interpreted as reality.  For example, when he writes, "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—," it is a reminder that there is something more profound in our daily lives.  Wordsworth suggests that one of the problems in the modern setting is the "sordid boon!" which mistakes illusion for reality. Wordsworth's poem is a call to change the way in which we view our lives.

He sees existence's illusion as preventing a truer sight from emerging.  When Wordsworth writes of "glimpses" that make him feel less "forlorn," they consist of transcendent visions.  These sights are of "Proteus rising from the sea;" and "old Triton blow his wreathèd horn."  Wordsworth insists that visions of Greek gods are more real than modern reality.

For Wordsworth, the illusion lies in our belief that our daily routines constitute reality.  He argues that what should be seen as authentic requires a different type of sight.  This inward and reflective vision is critical to understanding the world and our place in it.  Wordsworth suggests that we can be happier if we see a truer form of reality in our lives.

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

The main theme of this poem is the deadening effect of materialism in the modern world, as encapsulated in the line: "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers." The poet laments this state of affairs and longs to turn his face away from what he sees as the soulless materialism of his time, to an earlier time when people were more attuned to nature and all its wonders and beauties. To this end, indeed, he declares himself as a kind of pagan, worshiping nature in all its forms.  He ascribes to nature a vibrant spirit and life that is lacking in the modern world, the world of cities and commerce. His feeling of awe and reverence for nature can be labelled pantheism.

The poet is aware that his ideals might appear old-fashioned ("a creed outworn") but that doesn't bother him. Clearly he is deeply depressed and dissatisfied with contemporary life and longs for the comfort that the mystical beliefs of an earlier time would afford him, and make him "less forlorn." He wants to re-discover the sense of wonder in nature that he thinks people used to have, as seen in his invocation of the old nature deities, the sea-gods Proteus and Triton. 

In Wordsworth's time - that is to say, the last decades of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth -  there was an ever-increasing tendency to explain natural phenomena in practical, scientific terms. For Wordsworth and others of a similar romantic temperament, this meant the loss of a sense of wonder and enchantment about the world - an enchantment which he himself wanted to retain at all costs.

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

The poem you are referring to was written by William Wordsworth in 1807.  Its main theme is the idea that we modern people have become disconnectd and alienated from the world of nature.  He argues that we would be happier if we were more connected to that world.

Wordsworth claims that we are too interested in "getting and spending" and that being obsessed with those things, we have "given our hearts away."

He thinks that it would be better to be a pagan than a modern person because at least then he could be more in tune with nature.

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What are the themes of  "The World is Too Much with Us"?

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!
This 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;
It moves us not.—Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Wordsworth's main point in this poem is that we have gotten too busy to enjoy nature...we grow away from our roots and nature which renews us when we give way to our busy lives.  Today, with the internet, cell phones, texting, laptop computers, and other technology, we are growing even further from nature.  We don't take time to "smell the roses" or just "be" amidst trees, grass, and flowing brooks. We build parking lots over fields once full of fragrant flowers, and bulldoze trees in order to build high-rise apartments.  Wordsworth's message is still clear:  we need to find our center and balance our spiritual and emotional selves with our world of work and family.

Good Luck!

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

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 is also well known that he fathered a daughter out of wedlock while he was in France in his youth and that he felt obliged to send the French mother child-support payments until that daughter had grown up.

Characteristically, Wordsworth did not say that the world was too much with him but that it was too much with all of us. Which it is. Wordsworth was a sententious poet. If he hadn't lost his religious faith, he might have become a minister and preached sermons.

He was noted for his practice of taking long walks and composing his poetry in his head. (A servant told a visitor, "His study is out of doors.) He must have needed to get away from a cottage where he couldn't have even had a room to himself--and where at least two of his children had whooping cough!

In his sonnet he is all alone on a promontory overlooking the ocean. It must have been a relief to get away from that cottage and all those dependents who would naturally keep reminding him of his financial obligations. His was the problem that faces most people who aspire to be artists: They have to pay the rent and buy food and clothing; and if they get married they have to provide for their children. It is easy enough for a single person to live simply and devote himself or herself to artistic endeavors, but it is a lonely life and leads many of them to get married, as it did William Wordsworth.

In composing his sonnet, Wordsworth was revealing his growing realization that not just he himself was afflicted with real-life problems involving "getting and spending" but that these problems were common to nearly everybody. He doesn't offer any solution--only a wish (which perhaps we have all had) that he could live like a pagan (or perhaps like Robinson Crusoe).

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

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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What is the theme of "The World Is Too Much with Us," and what other poem can you suggest that shares the same theme?

This is a difficult question. It seems doubtful that there would be othre poems that carry the same theme as Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much with Us." In this poem, Wordsworth laments the disconnection of humanity from the beauties and strength of the natural world. But more than this, he blames those who embrace the Christian faith of becoming callous and causing this disconnect between humanity and nature. Yet, Wordsworth takes this one step further and denounces the callousness and claims he prefers paganism to what was for him callous Christianity, since pagans at least worship nature and recognize divine beings as in-dwelling elements of nature. A short expression of this theme might be: nature re-found in paganism versus nature disregarded in Christianity. I don't recall any other poems that make such claims and assertions as Wordsworth's thematic call to paganism makes:

This 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;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

One poem written by another Romantic period poet, however, does laud what he sees of paganism, though for another reason and in another scenario. John Keats wrote "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and praised the Grecian pagan scene he saw painted thereon. Keats was discussing the figures frozen in time on their way to a sacrifice to bless a nuptial that will never be consummated. Indirectly, he is rejoicing in the paganism that is represented by the pictured sacrificial ceremony. While admiring this pagan scene, Keats is actually commenting on the irony of the joyful scene because these frozen pagan figures "know" (i.e., represent) only that "'Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.'" The irony is that while this is all they do "know," in their frozen unconsummated state it is also all they need to know.

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

So while Wordsworth would rather be a pagan, Keats seem content to leave his pagans in an innocent undisturbed state because, by inference, he needs to know much more than they do.

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Where is the theme of choice in "The World is Too Much with Us"?

Wordsworth himself seems to be making a choice between the materialism and consumerism he describes in the beginning lines and a simple life devoted to the contemplation of nature. He says he would rather be a pagan and believe in mythological deities like Proteus and Triton than to be like the masses of humanity who are obsessed with "getting and spending" while leading unnatural lives in urban environments where everything has to be bought and paid for. He seems to be implying that most people do not realize they have a choice or that they might make a choice. They have already given their hearts away. They have become dehumanized.

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Where is the theme of choice in "The World is Too Much with Us"?

I think that the theme of choice is indeed part of Wordsworth's poem. One approach to this would be seen in line 4 when Wordsworth indicates that "We have given our hearts away."  For Wordsworth, the condition of being in the modern setting is one in which individuals have lost sight of that which is important.  This loss of focus is a choice for Wordsworth.  Individuals have chosen to lose sight of what is important.   Spiritual notions of nonconformity and the pursuit of beauty in its most natural conditions are a part of this.  For Wordsworth, being able to revel in this is of vital importance.  It is a choice that individuals have made and to have made the wrong choice is precisely the reason why "The World is Too Much With Us."  The "glimpses" that make us "less forlorn" reside in the nature of our choices.  For Wordsworth, the Romantic poet's purpose is to make aware to the audience the desires of the subjective in hoping that others will share in it and act appropriately.  In this, Wordsworth believes that while our choices have placed individuals in the position they are in, there are choices that can be made to embrace that which is "the good, the true, and the beautiful."

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