Composed upon Westminster Bridge and The World is too much with us

William Wordsworth, poet and writer, born on April 7th, 1770 in a small Cumberland village named Cochermouth, located on the northern edge of the Lake District. He attended infant school in the small town of Hawkshead, located in one of the most beautiful regions of the Lake District. Wordsworth remained at Hawkshead until the age of 16. There were some long and deeply impressive rumples through the country, which affected his poetry greatly. You will realize that he loves nature and had a deep loyalty to Britain, even though he lived in France and was married to a French woman.
The two poems I will be discussing are; “The World is too much with us” and “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”. It is interesting to notice that both of these poems take on a Petrarchan sonnet form. The form of a sonnet consists of an octave (first 8 lines) and a sestate (last 6 lines). This gives us a total of 14 lines. However in “The World is too much with us” a unique and significant form is taken on; Wordsworth gives the octave 8 and a half lines while the sestate has only 5 and a half. Wordsworth uses the octave for the exposition or the theme and the sestate for the conclusion.
“The World is too much with us” embodies one of the central ideas of the Romantic Movement in poetry, of which Wordsworth was a founder – that in our daily life, especially living in towns, we have lost touch with the renewing powers of nature. “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” is a magnificent sonnet, which shows Wordsworth appreciating and indeed demonstrating the beauty of a great city – though perhaps it is characteristic of his love for solitude, and is set in the early morning, when there is no bustle and noise.

Throughout both sonnets Wordsworth cleverly employs the use of semicolons, colons, comma or just a full stop. His reasons for this is to make us pause, reflect and get the true meaning of the line we have just read. In the first two lines of “The World is too much with us” –
The World is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Wordsworth uses both the semicolon and the colon and intends us to think “what world?” “which power?” he gets across that we are being engulfed in the materialistic world and have a lack of concern for nature, thus we take nature for granted and we waste our natural powers.
In the corresponding lines of “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” –
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soal who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
Wordsworth utilizes a number of ploys to grab our attention. The opening line is a bold statement meaning he has not ever seen a better sight. The use of the word “earth” suggests the supreme quality of such beauty. He uses the words “earth”, “anything” and “fair” to indicate the entire world. In the second line syntax is put to use; “dull would he be of soul” as opposed to “he would be dull of soul”. This is for extra emphasis on the word “dull”. He also uses enjambment by allowing lines 2 and 3 to flow together as 1; this helps to stress ‘a sight so touching’. The repetition of the letter s sound helps to convey the ‘breathless’ sense of admiration. Touching is a word that we can all relate to whereas majesty shows the importance of nature and how much he was startled by this view.
In the next two lines of “The World is too much with us” –
“Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Here Wordsworth gives nature a capital letter. This is the first indication in the poem of what it is about. Syntax again is used where he could have simply written “we see little in nature that is ours”, which means we don’t recognise nature as being part of ours. In line two, the poet says “we have given our hearts away”, our heart is associated with love and without it he is implying we do not appreciate nature in the manner we should. A sordid boon is a phrase used to convey the meaning of a gift of no value. This hints that we no longer value our love by living in the materialistic world.
Wordsworth uses personification in line four of “Composed upon Westminster Bridge”. A simile is also implied for further understanding.
“This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare”
Garment suggests a comfortable easy fit yet the world is more grand than say, clothing, and the beauty of the scene is enhanced by implications of resplendent finery. Another capital letter is used in the middle of the sentence on the word city. This shows the importance and beauty of the city. The two lines mean that the city now wears the beauty of the morning; again Wordsworth shows us his love and passion for nature.
In the corresponding lines of “The World is too much with us” there is the same punctuation and language affects –
“This Sea that bears her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
Again to show the importance of nature Wordsworth uses a capital letter on sea, which is most of our natural world today. Personification is used on these same lines – “the sea that bears ‘HER’ bosom to the moon” and “the winds that will be ‘HOWLING’ at all hours”. “Like sleeping flowers” is the simile implied to show the calming after the storm.
The octave in “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” ends with: –
“Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and all glittering in the smokeless air.”
You could almost say these statements are incorrect, but remember it was the 1800’s when this sonnet was composed. When Wordsworth stood upon this bridge he could see everlasting green fields, surrounding London, that lead right to the horizon. Open is a word that could mean anything but in this poem it means that there is a light open feeling to the atmosphere. “Smokeless” – still, pure, unpolluted. Perhaps this reminds us of how the scene will change once days of smoky industry begin.
“For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.”
These are the last one and a half lines of the octave in “The World is too much with us”. Wordsworth suggests here that we are out of tune. Thus hinting we are not in harmony with nature. This again shows the difference of tone. In “composed upon Westminster Bridge” the tone is a hushed, almost breathless admiration. He was surprised by sudden vision of splendor and became more emotional whereas he recognizes the materialistic living in “The World is too much with us”.
The sestet of “The World is too much with us” opens with “Great God”. Wordsworth recognises God’s great power of nature but he would also rather be a Pagan because Pagan’s appreciated nature. He wants to see glimpses to make him less sad and a glimpse would keep the suspense and make him more aloof. Proteus and Triton are Greek Gods. Proteus: Greek sea God and Triton: one of a race of minor sea – Gods in Greek mythology, with a mans form but the tail of a fish, often depicted as carrying a shell – trumpet.
In the sestet of “composed upon Westminster Bridge” Wordsworth seems very happy with the view of London city with the sun rising. He says such things as: “Never did the sun more beautifully steep”, and “Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!” which is another cleaver use of syntax. This is a change from “The World is too much with us” as in that sonnet the wonderful natural scenery in which he was writing made him sad to think about how people don’t appreciate it anymore.
“Dear God” is also used in “composed upon Westminster Bridge”. This is maybe his prayer to God to keep nature so beautiful whereas in “The World is too much with us”, he used “Great God” as to say WAKE UP!
We (the readers) can visualize and relate to the wonderful scenery Wordsworth describes effectively, with language and punctuation to convey his meaning.

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