The World is too Much with Us
The World is too Much with Us
by William Wordsworth

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

"The World is too Much with Us" sounds like a short snippet from a speech given by an environmental activist on a college campus. Just imagine a guy with dreads, a Greenpeace t-shirt, and Birkenstocks, talking into a microphone in front of a bunch of people. He starts out by talking about how obsessed with material things people are and about how suffocating cities have become: "The world is too much with us; late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers" (1-2). It's a strong claim, but it's delivered with calm deliberation rather than hasty excess.

As he continues to talk, his voice rises just a little bit as he describes how terrible it is that people care more about getting material objects than experiencing nature. "We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!" he exclaims, all but implying that we've committed some kind of ritual suicide. Yikes.

As he continues to talk, he gets ready for his big finish, where he's going to leave us with something radical and memorable so we never forget the strength of his convictions. "Great God!" (9), he yells out, "I'd rather be / A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn" (9-10). That's a pretty big claim, and the poem gradually works up to it; it starts out with a state-of-the-union tranquility, but gradually progresses until it makes a radical, exclamatory claim of the kind we usually associate with people who keep getting more and more worked up.

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