The World Is Too Much With Us

I’ve never been an outdoorsy kind of guy, but something about these first few lines from William Wordsworth’s poem resonates with me.

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. …

The poem was written sometime around 1806, so Wordsworth had plenty to complain about, what with the Industrial Revolution and all. But, he spent most of his life in the Lake District of England, which was still positively bucolic when I visited the place nearly 200 years later.

When I read this poem last night, I had a “back in my day” reaction, but in reverse. Seriously, how much “getting and spending” could the guy have seen back then in lovely Grasmere? I’d like to drop Wordsworth into the middle of New York City now and see what he thinks. And yet, the poem makes me wonder about the fever pitch of today’s commerce and marketing and advertising and technology and communication. In another 200 years, will the breakneck pace of our lives look more like a gentle stroll through a quaint village?

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