12 July 2010

the world is too much with us


"the decadent material cynicism of the time."  ~ WW

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 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. …
William Wordsworth
The world in 1806? Wordsworth wrote this sonnet from Grasmere, a Lake District village, but was Life Simple? Not in the eyes of Wordsworth. The onslaught of the Industrial Revolution colored Wordworth's bucolic view. Doesn't each generation faces these "wastes to our powers ?"  
My mother started reciting this poem today- the year she memorized it might have been 1944- a Simpler time?  Pearl Harbor was in the past, a brother was at war, a father died suddenly, a nation of women stepped out of their traditional roles- not so simple.  
More than 200 years have past and the words resonate, reverberate to a "sorid boon." The sonnet may seem horribly outdated, I think it beautiful. I hear it today in the dissonant  heavy Rap-despised by aesthetes- expressing hostility to Capitalism, the industrial complex. It is all in conflict with the search for Our Beautiful Life-that which defines You.

What defines You? How do you reconcile the quest for the material beauties of man with the quest for the beauties of nature? Do you?


  1. We have our own quiet, beautiful corner of the world with dogs, trees, flowers a cottage of a house and a cave filled with champagne.

    The older I get the less "things" have any meaning for me unless they were given to me by someone I love and who loved/loves me. If someone were to say to me today, "what do you want?" I honestly could say, "nothing." Or no, I would say, "I wish my daughter lived closer to me.

    And then there is love full stop. That's all that really counts even though it almost sounds trite to say it. I really don't care.

    Thank you for making me stop and think today. One tends not to.

    (And oh how I adore your blog.)

  2. I, for one, am grateful for your lapses into a sensibility apart from the mindlessness of the frivolous and unimportant. Wordsworth's words are achingly beautiful and poignant in their reminder of the relentlessness of what never seems to leave us.

    I am grateful to you for the discovery since I have been looking for something eloquent and disturbingly truthful, such as this is.

  3. I think it might possibly be impossible to reconcile if either ends are pursued to an extreme. As in all else... it is balance.

    To value beauty/quality and man's ability to create it immensely, brings joy and does indeed bring us closer to grace.

    Cheap, imitations and disposable contradict this belief, for me - which is where I think we wander off track - and where we have been perhaps heading for some time.

    In terms of what I live with - quality over quantity. A few absolute necessities, chosen selectively - with escapes to the wilderness to balance out the uncertainty of the world. I suspect that I am not alone in this approach.

  4. I thought of this poem recently. I had not thought about it in years. I think it is one of those poems wasted on the young. But as I am caught between the tail end of raising my children and the tail end of seeing my parents through their lives, the message resonates with me.
    Thank you. I enjoy your site.

  5. Gaye, It is THE quest isn't it! Love this post in particular. Barbara

  6. These words stopped me in my sandy tracks today. I personally reconcile by finding moments in nature where I am present. That's where I start. And, from there... mindfulness becomes compassion and love from there. It's the moments in nature and not "things" that provide the most fulfilling moments of my every day. Thank you for these beautiful and poignant words WW. ox

  7. I love Wordsworth but the thought about the contempt for capitalism and industrial greed made me wonder if the Unibomber read Wordsworth, Voltaire, Pope, Swift and the like. Perhaps he should have been born in a different time. Me, I stay on the farm, try to winnow my houses and barnfulls of stuff I no longer want nor need. Politically incorrect? That's me.

  8. "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need" - Cicero

    Slim Paley

  9. What is ironically reassuring is what you show - that man has always seen gloom and doom in his condition. Thanks to Pandora, we have never been satisfied always self-critical, yet not only we keep plugging on, but we try to make things beautiful with our much maligned "things." No, we shouldn't be too attached to them but aiming for more beauty in the world can be a way of being closer to Nature - and our own nature.



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