Image featuring William Wordsworth for the poem The world is too much with us

Easy Analysis & Meaning of The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth

“The World is Too Much With Us” is a sonnet written from the perspective of a person who is deeply in love with nature and gradually sees it getting destroyed by us.

This sonnet shows how greedy, myopic, and blind humans can be, even for the most trivial reasons. William Wordsworth has been a proponent of how beautiful and precious nature and its beauty are.

The world that we see today, the dull grays and blacks in the sky and the cities that barely show any greenery is definitely a pitiful sight to see.

But imagine being born in a world where the grass was lush green and the sky was bluer than the ocean and watching it all change in your lifetime. Wordsworth is just expressing his pain and disappointment through this sonnet. 

Context: William Wordsworth wrote this poem during the Industrial Revolution which completely changed the way we lived, and where we lived. The rising dark smoke of revolution covered the green pastures. 

Remember that this was not the world that we see today with tall glass buildings and green parks. It was a time that led to the great Victorian Compromise when the industrial revolution brought sickness, death, poverty, and crime instead of prosperity. 

Factories everywhere spitting black smoke, dusty and dull brick buildings and lanes, and all the other morbid things replaced a beautiful scenery where nature was allowed to grow freely. Now that you know the context, let’s take a look at the poem.

The World is Too Much With Us

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 wreathèd horn.

-William Wordsworth

Analysis and Meaning of the Sonnet

The sonnet is a mix of easy-to-understand verses that connect directly to the heart and some obscure references and complex metaphors that are used to describe the gravity of the situation. 

Just like a classic Petrarchan sonnet, the first eight lines present a problem or an issue and the final six lines show the solution (or what the poet thinks is the right thing to do.) Let’s divide the sonnet into four parts so that it becomes easier to elucidate.

Stanza 1: The Sordid Boon

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!

The first stanza can be named ‘The Sordid Boon’ because the ability of man to be able to manipulate and change nature according to his will is considered a boon, but it is in every way sordid, at least during Wordsworth’s time.

The world is too much with us because we want too much, and our greed can never be satisfied. Using our powers, all we do is just get things and spend them. This line tells us about our inherent materialism. 

Humans take, spend it all, and then want more to get that feeling of happiness. Laying waste has become everyone’s way of achieving happiness. It is to the point when it feels like we are addicted to it. 

We do not see nature’s beautiful creations, the flowers, the sea, the blue sky and so much more. It is an immoral and evil boon that we had to trade our hearts to get. This endless chase of things is never going to end, and that is our curse disguised as a boon. 

Stanza 2: What We Cannot See

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;

In the second stanza, Wordsworth talks about all the things that we have traded for the depressing sooty factories and poorly paved brick roads. This stanza draws a contrast between the things we want and the things we already have. 

The wide blue sea reflects the silvery moonshine, while the winds howl in the ears. They are trying to tell us something, trying to show the beauty in them, but we can neither hear nor see it because we are so out of tune. 

All the different elements of nature are like ‘sleeping flowers,’ beauty that is hidden from our eyes. But we lack the patience, the stillness, and the heart to see all of it.

Stanza 3: The Action

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,

From the ninth line, Wordsworth proposes the solution to the issue, or what he thinks is the right thing for him to do. Wordsworth says that he’d rather be a pagan (which a majority of people frowned upon.)

He says that even if Paganism is considered to be outdated and dead, he would still be a part of this dying creed. All of this is so that he can be part of a diminishing group who stand on this pleasant land and appreciate the beauty of nature. 

Stanza 4: The Result

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

The last tercet is about the result of the action. Wordsworth says that he would stand on the land and look at the beautiful open field and the blue sky and the sea and feel less forlorn.

He says that seeing what the world has come to makes him feel just hopeless.

Wordsworth ends the sonnet with two impactful lines. He says that he would stand and look at the sea for the sight of the Greek God Proteus or Triton and hear his horn.

Proteus is the early Greek God of the sea, while Triton is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. What Wordsworth is implying is that nature would show the magnificent sight of God if seen from the heart. 

Meaning and Theme of the Sonnet

Meaning: As obvious from what Wordsworth is trying to convey, the increase of greed in our lives is taking up the space where serenity, beauty, and peace lived. This message holds true to this day. 

We are so lost in this fight that who is going to gather more and get more that we have forgotten that the nature that births us is getting destroyed in this process.

We have made the world a living hell, and it is all our ignorance and greed. Things have not changed even now, when the dangers of global warming still loom over us, all because of the greed Wordsworth was heartbroken to see centuries ago. 

So this is what the sonnet means; to open the eyes of your heart and look at what’s left of nature. Nurture it, protect it, and let it flourish for it is the only thing that can show us true beauty in its majesty. 

Theme: The theme of the sonnet is man versus nature, need versus greed, and man versus society. Wordsworth is going against all the people who just cannot see how beautiful nature is. 

People are blinded by the bright shine of materialism, leading them to just run in a never-ending race of getting something, and then throw it away when something new is found. 

Sadly, this is still the case today and only a few have been able to get out of it. Materialism would not be a problem if it wasn’t leading to the destruction and death of nature and everything beautiful with it. 

The cost of advancement is turning out to be very expensive, and the boon of growth was just a facade to cover the evilness it instills in humans. Society has been blinded by the dark smoke from the rising industries, both metaphorically and literally. 

Literary Devices

The literary devices used in the Poem The World is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth include:

Enjambment: A few examples of Enjambment from the poem are:

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

Personification–  Personification is to attribute human characteristics to nonhuman or even inanimate objects. The poet has used personification several times in the poem such as “ sea that bares her bosom to the moon”, “the winds that will be howling at all hours” and “sleeping flowers”.

Imagery– The use of imagery in the poem helps the reader to visualize whatever the writer is feeling. For example:

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

sleeping flowers;

 Proteus rising from the sea;

Simile– Simile is a device that the poet uses to compare something to another thing. For example:

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

The poet has linked the howling of the winds with sleeping flowers.

Allusion– Allusion is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. For example:

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

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