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! 4
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; 8
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; 12
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
E. "The World is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon." Poems in English 1530-1940, ed. David Daiches. New York: Ronald, 1950. Pp. 320-1. The following link contains general instructions.
1. Briefly interpret the poem.
2. Provide a prose paraphrase.
3. Emphasis on the acquisition of material wealth through commerce has caused Wordsworth's contemporaries to "lay waste [their] powers"?
4. The "powers" mentioned enable humanity to do what?
5. In the octave, Wordsworth gives reasons why his contemporaries cannot experience nature as he was able to do as a youth. Explain these reasons.
6. Where is the volta? Explain its effectiveness in terms of its placement, diction, and imagery.
7. Since humanity is "out of tune" with Nature, what compensation could Proteus, godly shepherd of sea lions, and the sea god Triton, the gigantic merman who blows a conch shell, provide (nominal) nineteenth- century Christians?
8. In what sense does Wordsworth mean "the world" in line 1?
9. How would the persona feel "less forlorn" if he could catch sight of Triton, the son of the Greek sea god Poseidon and the wave goddess Amphitrite, who dwelled with his parents in a golden palace at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea?
10. For general discussion: quote two examples of details from the poem and explain how each helps to support Wordsworth's theme.
Incorporated in the Victorian Web: 24 June 2003