The World Is Too Much With Us

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 …

Abandoned house after passing storm

- 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.

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15 Responses to The World Is Too Much With Us

  1. pamela says:

    Lord Linda, that was just beautiful and such a perfect poem. You’d think he had written it yesterday.

    • theozarker says:

      I know. I’d always been a little dismissive of Wordsworth, but somehow that one phrase hid away in the back of my mind until I heard it again yesterday. Glad it did. I’ll have to give him another look. 😀

  2. graveday says:

    Here is a little different one from Stephan Crane that has always stuck in my mind too.

  3. graveday says:

    Yep, Crane has looked reality in the eye and poked it with a stick. I guess the Uncivil War might do that for one, or any war. I like him. Wordsworth has his eye on the same thing, but dresses it up and then dances around it.
    Latoc had a poetry corner that erupted to life from time to time. It’s just hard to keep all the good balls in the air at one time, music, poetry, gardening, hanging out with friends digital and corporal, taking hikes, etc.

    • theozarker says:

      Yeah, The Red Badge of Courage and another book called When Johnny Came Marching Home did a lot to take the glamor out of war for me. As did a HS history teacher whose family had to go back into Germany from France to rescue her grandfather – a professor at the University of Munich who was on Hitler’s sh*t list. Ah, the lessons she taught us …

      And about all those balls in the air, trust me, the older we get, the harder it is. 😀

  4. graveday says:

    Oh, I trust you all right. I am roughly your age, heh, very roughly.
    I had a history teacher who lacked the personal stories, but nevertheless drove home the nastiness of nazism, having lived through it and fought over there, which is personal, but he didn’t talk about that at all.
    Well, it is another beautiful day here. Could be late April, early May temperature wise. Apricot is halfway done with blooming. Not many bees. And barely over six inches of rain when we usually have over fifteen by now.
    Our water comes out of the ground via five hundred foot deep city wells and the cost, already high, is projected to double in four years. That means 25% increases yearly the next four years. We never hear any more about the water table levels like we used to in the past. I suppose the info would not be cheery. I’ve been trying to find out. Meanwhile the city has a green light to tap into the Sacramento River, but not enough money to pull it off, having overspent the early in the last decade. Sound familiar?

    • theozarker says:

      LOL Grave, somehow I always think of you as one of them young fellers. It’s beautiful here today too. I need to get out there and prune those grape vines. Usually this time of year is chilly and rainy or windy enough to blow me over. And the grape vines don’t usually start forming buds until toward the end of March. But I think I’d better get out there early this year. Springfield sits on top of a good sized aquifer, but the last few years, the utility company has been urging us to water our gardens only three times a week. But March and April are our rainy months, with July and August dry. Still, we seem to be running a little behind in moisture this year (and last).

  5. graveday says:

    Remember Jefferson’s comment, ‘I am an old man, but a young gardener,’ or something like that?
    That goes for a lot of areas for me, heh.
    Grapes are already budding here and I saw tomato plants for sale at the coop. They were nice looking and as soon as I figure out where I want to plant them this year, I’m going to go get at least the Early Girls. And to think I was just about to start some seeds.
    Somebody is on top of the season and making money I hope. gd.

    • theozarker says:

      I got some heirloom seeds for brandywines and my good old Arkansas travelers among those I ordered. Didn’t have enough tomatoes the last two years to save any seeds. But I’m ever hopeful. Too windy to work on the grapevines today. Gusts up to 50 mph. When it suddenly goes from 15 to 50, I just tip over. 😀
      Other than that, it’s been a lovely spring day here.

  6. graveday says:

    Winter just remembered it hasn’t ended here and kicked up a cold north wind. No gusts to fifty, but enough for a wind advisory, which means gusts to thirty five. Fifty is serious. That means stuff flying in the air will hit you that fast. Then compare that with the 270 mph winds that were in those twisters. I can’t begin to imagine.
    In Alaska I was in seventy mph gales. I could stand and lean into the wind and it would hold me up. There weren’t many bugs to fly into my face and I never gave it a thought anyway. Even the seagulls were having a tough time flying. One knocked itself out for a bit flying into the mast of the ship. Other seagulls then hovered over it in a cloud of movement that I could only guess was to hide the dazed seagull from the eagles overhead. Most eagles I counted was about thirty.
    Fun times. gd

  7. theozarker says:

    Typical cold, rainy March day here today with winds (not high) out of the north, but supposed to be in the mid seventies next week. Sounds like you had quite a trip there in Alaska. The winds the last two days caused some fires to get out of hand in rural MO and blew the porch chairs and trash can around here. Lots of paper and plastic trash blowing around. I just try to stay out of it except for necessary stuff. Welcome to spring in the Ozarks. 😀

  8. graveday says:

    I would never have guessed you get winds like that there, minus the tornados, heh.

  9. theozarker says:

    Springfield is on top of an ancient plateau which seems to split the rainstorms in summer, sending them north or south of us – and sometimes both – but leaves us to the whims of any good wind that passes by. Thankfully, they’re rarly sustained winds, but those gusts can sure take you by surprise.

  10. graveday says:

    I have mentioned that I was born in Cincy, but my mother told me I was conceived in Little Rock, so I lay claim to Ozark sympathies.

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