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William Wordsworth

Essay by   •  December 20, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,500 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,652 Views

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William Wordsworth's "The World is Too Much With Us" is a Romantic Sonnet that can be broken into two parts. The speaker tells us in the first part that we have lost our connection with nature, and that that connection was one of our most important relationships. The speaker the goes on to tell us that that he is willing to sacrifice everything to recover this relationship, and begins on line 9. In romantic poems, the speaker tries to convince us of our flaws, in this case our skewed relationship with nature, and convince us to change our ways. The speaker in Wordsworth's poem is no different in this respect, and utilizes shock to grab our attention and really get us to notice just how serious he believes this problem is. Although he uses multiple types of shock in this poem, his willingness to reject the major religions of the day is clearly his most affective.

Wordsworth was one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in poetry, and his works became an outline for what Romanticism was all about. This movement was one that was trying to change society, and bring them back in touch with their feelings and nature. The Columbia Encyclopedia went as far as calling it, "revolt against the prescribed rules of classicism." This means that the romantic thinkers and poets were trying to convince their audience that their old ways were wrong because they neglected what was truly important, and get them to change their ways. As Rader put it, "In the richness of its values and range of its ideas this is a large poem, although it numbers only fourteen lines. It is what Matthew Arnold called 'a criticism of life'" (Rader 203). This means that "The World is Too Much With Us" is a very deep poem, criticizing the situation in which the speaker lives, and clearly trying to evoke a response. In order to do this, however, they first had to get them to pay attention to their arguments. This is one place that shock was found to be an important tool.

There are two main uses for shock in poetry, to get the audiences attention or to support your point. Wordsworth uses shock to get the readers attention three different times in "The World is Too Much With Us". The first way he utilizes shock is by going against the normal use of nature in Romantic poetry. In most Romantic poems, nature is portrayed in a gentle light. Usually, the speaker is trying to show nature in a better light so as to make it more desirable to the audience. Wordsworth, however, shows both sides of nature. He does show nature as gentle when he talks about "sleeping flowers" (7) and when he talks about the "Sea that bares her bosom to the moon" (5). He talks about nature as frightening and dangerous when he says that "The winds that will be howling at all hours" (6). This shows not only the fury of nature, but when contrasted with more gentle images, the speaker shows the versatility and inclemency that comes with nature. This helps the audience to trust the speaker more, because he is being honest about nature, and adds to the future shock of his embracing it. Another way involves the structure of the poem. Being an Italian sonnet, the poem is supposed to break into two different sections, the first being eight lines and the second being six. While Wordsworth does break his poem into two parts, he does it midway through the ninth line. Although this may not mean much too us, but scholars and other well read people of his day would notice this immediately. He does this because a main theme of this poem is to break away from the rules governing society, and he is clearly doing that with the structure of the poem. The other two uses deal with the language and content of the poem. The other also occurs on line 9 where the speaker curses in the middle of the line proclaiming "Great God!" Cursing like this was seldom heard in public back then, and was certainly not common in poetry. This is done again to try to get the reader to listen closely to what follows.

The third and most important use of shock occurs on lines 9 and 10. Wordsworth's speaker says, "I'd rather be / A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn" (Wordsworth 9-10). This line represents both uses of shock. The thought of anything being more important to a person than his religion was very shocking to most people of his time. This statement is used to grab the reader's attention because it makes them wonder what on earth could be more important than religion. This leads into what is saying on the next line and also makes his audience pay more attention when he answers this question by saying:

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

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