William Wordsworth's poem The world is too much with us is a statement about conflict between nature and humanity. The symbolism in his poem illustrates a sense of the conviction and deep feelings Wordsworth had toward nature. He longs for a much simpler time when the progress of humanity was tempered by the restriction nature imposed. Wordsworth is saying in this poem that man is wasting his time on earth by not appreciating nature around him. He is looking but not beholding. "We have given our hearts away" (4) means that we have sold the part of us that is from the earth (man which is from dust) in order to make other things more important than appreciating life; such as, money or advancement in employment or just acquiring more "things." In Latin, the word "Pectus" can mean heart, but it can also mean the entire body, or the soul. Wordsworth is saying that we have given our very souls away.
Wordsworth gives a pessimistic view of the world, past and future. The words "late and soon" (1) in the opening verse describe how the past and future are included in his characterization of mankind. The author knows the potential for humanity, but the mentality of "getting and spending" (2) clouds the perspective of humanity. Wordsworth does not see us as incapable; in fact he describes our abilities as "powers". "We lay waste our powers" (2) is blamed on the earlier mentioned attitude of "getting and spending" (2). The desire man has for devouring all that is around, darkens the perspective as to what is being sacrificed for the progress. The "sordid boon" (4) we have "given are hearts" (4) is the worldly progress of mankind. Wordsworth is saying humanity has become self-absorbed and ...
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Overall, Wordsworth's use of symbolism in his poem illustrates a sense of the conviction and deep feelings he had toward nature; however, he sees himself as having insight to the problems. The materialistic progress being made by mankind is not without consequence, and the destruction of the environment by mankind's shortsightedness will continue as Wordsworth has foreseen. The change hoped for by the author will not come as a result of an initiative by humanity, but as an uproar by mother nature in the form of a battle. This battle will bring forth a victory for the environment and stimulate a re-birth for the world.
William, Wordsworth. "The world is too much with us." The Longman Anthology
of British Literature, Volume 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries, ed. Susan Wolfson and Peter Manning. Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 1999. 360.
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