Study Guide

London, 1802 Morality and Ethics

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Morality and Ethics

England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters (1-2)

This is pretty clear: any comparison to a swampland full of fetid, gross water is never a good thing. England is in a foul state of moral corruption, according to Wordsworth.

We are selfish men;
Oh! Raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power. (6-8)

Hmm…very interesting. The fact that Wordsworth lumps "manners, virtue, freedom, and power" together indicates the relationship between morality and success – a healthy nation achieves things like "freedom and power" through being kind and virtuous.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart (9)

…dwelt apart in a better place, that is. Milton's moral superiority set him apart from the rest of the flawed mass of humanity.

So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay. (12-14)

First of all, Milton was a humble guy. He didn't get all up on himself about being an amazing poet or a better-than-average human – no, instead, he chose to live like the rest of us (only better). Furthermore, he took the most humble duties upon himself, and didn't ask for any special treatment.

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