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William Wordsworth’s poem is a statement about conflict between nature and humanity. The symbolism in his poem gives the reader a sense of the conviction and deep feelings Wordsworth had. Wordsworth longs for a much simpler time when the progress of humanity was tempered by the restrictions nature imposed.
Wordsworth gives a fatalistic view of the world, past and future. The words “late and soon” 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” 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” is blamed on the earlier mentioned attitude of “getting and spending”. The appetite mankind has for devouring all that is around clouds our perspective as to what is being sacrificed for the progress. The “sordid boon” we have “given are hearts” is the materialistic progress of mankind. Humanity has become self-absorbed and can no longer think clearly. The destructiveness society has on the environment will proceed unchecked and relentless like the “winds that will be howling at all hours”.
Unlike society, Wordsworth does not see nature as a commodity. The verse “Little we see in Nature that is ours”, shows that coexisting is the relationship envisioned. This relationship appears to be at the mercy of mankind because of the vulnerable way nature is described. The verse “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon”, gives the vision of a woman exposed to the heavens. The phrase “sleeping flowers” might also describe how nature is being overrun unknowingly and is helpless.
Wordsworth seems to be the only enlightened one who is able to foresee the inevitable. He sees himself as one with the environment. The verse “I, standing on this pleasant lea, have glimpses that would make me less forlorn”, show Wordsworth as a visionary who is not responsible for the destruction of nature. This destruction is not seen stopping as a result of any act by mankind. The change Wordsworth is hoping for will come in the form of a mighty revolt by nature. Wordsworth reaches back into ancient Greece for their gods who symbolize nature and strength to make the change. Proteus is seen rising from the sea, facing the injustices inflicted upon nature, placing the cycle of life back in balance.
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