Although W.B. Yeats wrote roughly a century after the Era of Romanticism, his Romantic precursors influenced his writing greatly. One of his most famous poems, "The Second Coming," echoes both Blake's The Book of Urizen and Shelley's most ambitious poem Prometheus Unbound (Bloom 530). Despite less criticism on the relationship between Yeats's poems and the writing of another one of his Romantic predecessors, William Wordsworth, Wordsworth's reproach of greed and materialism in a waxing industrial society influences Yeats' poetic interpretation of the apocalypse. Both Wordsworth and Yeats depict man's downfall; "The world is too much with us" foreshadows and describes the reasons for the predicted apocalypse of The Second Coming. A cultural concentration on redundant commercialism, loss of focus on nature, and lack of conviction fuel both poems, yet only Yeats envisions the graphic result in an eventual takeover of man.
In the first four lines of "The world is too much with us," the speaker laments man's shift of focus from nature to materialism:
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 (Wordsworth 1394)!
Wordsworth, normally writing in a much softer tone indicative of the Romantic style which he helped to define, begins the sonnet with a strong, scolding voice associated so specifically with Milton (Levinson 644). He emphatically condemns the "vulgar materialism" of the age exhibiting the human race's frivolousness and frets that instead of looking to Nature (their own and the surrounding), human...
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Cantor, Jay. "History in the Revolutionary Movement: Men Made Out of Words." The Space Between: Literature and Politics. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.
Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dennis Poupard. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale, 1983. 540-541.
Levinson, Marjorie. "Back to the Future: Wordsworth's New Historicism." South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (1989): 633-659.
Profitt, Edward. "Yeats's 'The Second Coming.'" Explicator 49 (1991): 104-105.
Wordsworth, William. "The world is too much with us." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed., the major authors. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1996. 1394.
Yeats, William Butler. "The Second Coming." The Norton Anthology of English
Literature. 6th ed., the major authors. Ed. M. H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1996. 2280
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