March 3, 2012
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 …
- William Wordsworth
A chance remark by a newscaster on the PBS News Hour last night, quoting the first phrase of Wordsworth’s poem, “The world is too much with us,” sent me scurrying to the internet to look up the entire poem. I hadn’t read Wordsworth in years, finding a lot of his poetry a bit too lyrical for my taste, but over those years, that quoted phrase from the poem had stuck in my mind for some reason and I was curious to see why.
Even though he wrote the poem in 1806, as I read through the first stanza, quoted above, it seemed as though Wordsworth had had a prophetic glimpse into our own time some two hundred years later.
I suppose that’s the power of poetry, that something written at another time can suddenly grab us with forgotten words and cause us to say, “Yes. That says what I’m feeling, exactly.”
The world is too much with us. From the constant pressures of getting and spending, designed more to save the world financial system than to save the ordinary person drowning in the debt, to the mad scramble toward another middle east war (designed not to save us from a nuclear Iran, but to save us from the loss of the dollar as the world oil currency in an Iranian borst,) we have laid waste our power and ordinary mortals are crushed by the struggles.
From giant corporate food farms irrigated with a dwindling water supply and monstrous corporate animal farms housing our meat supply in its own waste, to giant machines slashing the dead earth and gobbling its dwindling resources for one more round of getting and spending, little we see in nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.
Nature has tried to warn us of our bad bargain, from the mass dying of bees and bats, the explosions of giant hog farms and increasing transmission of animal to human diseases, to melting glaciers and sea ice and increasing outbreaks of wildfires, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes.
Yet, as Wordsworth says later in the poem, For this, for everything, we are out of tune. It moves us not–Great God! For all of this, besotted by the acquisition of things, we can’t see what we have lost and continue to lose in that sordid boon.
I sit here at my computer listening to a cardinal call outside the window. The jonquils bloom along the fence and the henbit has begun its annual riot. I’ve ordered new seeds and it’s time to trim the grape vines. Soon I’ll need to turn the soil and get the early vegetables in the ground. With the warm winter we’ve had, I’m no longer sure I’ll get the timing right. I have no innate sense of this, these days. But I hope, if I listen to and watch what’s going on around me, I will find a way to adjust to what we have now put out of tune.
At least I find that nature still moves me; the acts of sowing and reaping still excite me; I still see much in nature that is ours. And, as happens this time every year, I find I must go out and be in nature once again.
Especially when the world is too much with me, late and soon.