Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans
"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." (1-3) Wordsworth, The World Is Too Much with Us
Perhaps it is these lines that best exemplify the feeling behind Wordsworth's hand in the Romantic movement. He and other Romantics call for an appreciation of nature, a unity between our spirits and the Earth's spirit. Peace can be found by returning to nature, gazing at the clouds, or "dancing with the daffodils." Some people find this view on life and poetry invigorating. Some people find it a bit tired.
When we discussed Wordsworth in my Introduction to Poetry class, our professor told us that Wordsworth's poetry was sometimes accused of being simple both in theme and in word selection.
I can see the critics' point, but I don't agree. Wordsworth is not my favorite poet, but he had something going for him; an enduring theme lasting over a century. Nature has a quality of peaceful restoration. It's kept us taking walks when we need to think, tending gardens when we need to relax, and staring at stars when we need to find beauty.
"I said, 'A line will take us hours, maybe;/ Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,/ Our stitching and unstitching has been naught." (4-6) Yeats, Adam's Curse
The enduring theme of Yeats' poetry is man's heightened intellect and what this brings. Power, sadness, struggle, strength? It is this intelligence that leads to a poem of self-exile in "Sailing to Byzantium" when Yeats laments, "This is no country for old men" (1). Yeats recognized the changing times and felt that he was too aged to belong in his homeland any longer. It is this intelligence that leads to a poem of cursed clairvoyance in "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death." An ignorant man could not guess that his time was ending, or proclaim that "The years to come seemed a waste of breath"(14).
Who could argue that this theme is anything but continuing? There are certain things that are valued universally, regardless of culture or religion, and intelligence is one of them. While some may argue that we are beginning to undervalue intellect, I would say that the world is simply changing, and it is impossible to discover a faculty of human life like intelligence and then be happy with anything less than the full employment of this faculty. Our dignity demands such effort. Just as nature will always have a place in mankind's heart, so will those with powerful minds forever have a space in our souls. Wordsworth and Yeats, while both spearheading different movements, both found themes that will long outlast the generations that follow them.