The World is Too Much with Us
Listen . . . Do you hear that? Perhaps it’s hard to hear with all those cars running by, or with all the rumbling and grumbling the factories make when you pass by. But the music of sound is always playing for those who listen.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) may be one of the best icons to represent the Romantic Movement. With the Lyrical Ballads composed with his friend Samuel Coleridge and many marvelous poems he wrote throughout his life, Wordsworth proves to be a Master of Literature as he presents us beauty and truth.
The Masters of Literature are not only masters by their control, wisdom and connectivity with words; they speak the truth through them. And I'm not only talking about facts, ideas, political statements, or cultural representations, I'm talking about all of them mixed together inside the writer's mind, like a fruit punch made of the soul's most natural fruits, by which makes the artist who he/she truly is. Wordsworth (As a true Romantic) described to write his poems as he felt his rushing feelings raising up as a wave, and I bet Keats, Blake and Dickinson would say something similar or relative to that matter. So as one reads their poems, their novels, or their short stories, the reader tastes the unique flavor of their fruit punch. Some might find it sweet while others might find it a bit bitter. However, those writers did not write for entertainment, for fame, or to sell their work (Although the influences exist), they wrote for expression, for literature's sake, for the spiritual development and connectivity of reaching out to the reader and give. "Here. This is a poem, read my experience and feel!" Give! regardless their weaknesses, the oppressions of the time periods, their fears, or any other walls that might exist, they use the time, open the heart, feed the brain, dwell the head, lift the soul, take the risk and suffer, days and nights just for the reader! And I'm sure that is the process which naturally made them Masters.
Art is a gift to share the beauty and connect our true human expressions with the world.
But I can't even compare, Wordsworth presents this idea and so much more in a deep richness that every time it’s read, his keywords accent different meanings to it:
"The World is Too Much with Us" by William Wordsworth
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 wreathed horn.
Based on the fact that the poem was composed around 1802, we might not be familiar with some of the words. Therefore, here's a small cheat sheet for you:
Sordid (adj.): Involving ignoble actions or motives. Dirty. Squalid.
Boon (noun): Something that is helpful or beneficial.
Lea (noun): Meadow. Open area of grassy or arable land.
Forlorn (adj.): Pitiful sad and lonely. Unlikely to succeed or to be fulfilled. Miserable.
Technically speaking, the poem is an Italian sonnet, made of 14 lines with Iambic Pentameter. In its rhythm, the reader can notice how the last six lines answer the first eight, preferably marked by the dash, and how their rhymes are in their standard form: abbaabbacdcdcd
Now, ideally speaking, Wordsworth directly presents us the idea of how we have become out of tune with the world. First stating how we have given our hearts away, with an exquisite oxymoron that states: a sordid boon! He criticizes how the machines from the rising of industrial revolution have made us be absorbed into the destructive side of mankind; the materialism and the continuing consumers that lay waste our powers have distanted us from our true Nature. Then, he presents us how blind we are when the Sea bares her bosom to the moon, and even the winds howling at all hours are up-gathered like sleeping flowers; as if, with our modern point of view nature has become a background to our perspectives, and we do not feel it anymore: it moves us not. Lastly, he states the answer: he would rather be a pagan, (which might be interpreted as a hedonistic spirit towards all religions and/or with no religion at all) firm on his feet with what he believes: standing on this pleasant lea have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; and have a slight sight of hope towards humanity.
Mystically, as we bury deeper into it, we may notice word choices that represent something beyond the essence of the text. For instance, notice how he emphasizes the Sea, how she openly shows her bosom to the moon, the rising of Proteus and the calling of Triton. In Greek Mythology, Proteus is a God from the sea, who could change shapes in order to avoid being found, and would foretell the future of the ones who did. Although there are marvelous stories about this character, Greek mythology does not only tell these epic tales to entertain; thinkers like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Heinrich Khunrath (and many others) believe these are representations of our collective unconscious and their "special traits" are ways to identify ourselves through them. So Proteus might stand for a symbol of our spiritual self; how we also change shapes as we feel emotions, as we meet others, as we live through challenges and situations. And, when our true self is found, foretell our purpose and the future ahead of us; furthermore:
"Know yourself and you shall know all the mysteries of the Gods and the universe."
I bet you might be wondering, how's Proteus related to the essence of the poem? Well, he is reciting how we are out of tune with nature, and precisely at the answer stanza of the poem he introduces Proteus as this savior rising from the sea. Metaphorically, it can be interpreted as the approaching of Proteus to mankind; how naturally we would see our true selves rising from the depth of our unconscious, and perhaps how to connect to Nature as well. Since Nature represents our source and roots, we follow the same rules in all levels, and although we have thousands of differences between each other, on the level of pure nature we are all one. Proteus might stand for a symbol of how we must be the water, the trees and the earth, and how we must be the other to actually connect to them.
The word Intelligence comes from the words Interior and Ligature; the process of binding or tying what we perceive to our interior, and then expressing it; thus, making us intelligent.
For the great end of the poem, Wordsworth leaves us with the calling of Triton with his wreathed horn: Triton being another God from the Greek mythology, and, more specifically, the messenger from the sea. He could be representing an awakening for mankind; hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn, a pure sound that calls to gaze to the horizon of the sea and bond with nature as we listen. However, Wordsworth was not a revolutionary only in Literature; he defended the French Revolution and the liberal cause with high idealism. Hence, the call of Triton could be the awakening of mankind to open our eyes and fight with the mightiest pen for our world's sake; the call to rise for our self-identify when The World is Too Much with Us.
Generally, it's a captive poem for artists; the call of Triton is answered as they rebel with their own creations and their true selves, make art for art's sake and keep their intuition high to their surroundings. So, keep your eyes open to Nature, and listen to the calling from the Sea. Listen . . . Do you hear that?