Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans

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"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.       


Kayla Lesko said:

Weird, I did the same poems as you did.

While I agree that intelligence isn't dwindling much, common sense certainly is. It's book smart vs. street smart.

Aja Hannah said:

Wordsworth is "accused of being simple both in theme and in word selection" but this is what makes him great to me. I can understand it, relate to his poetry, and feel what the speaker feels.

At the same time though, Romantic poetry is simple and sometimes I struggle to find that deeper meaning or to find questions that weren't asked because I'm used to looking at Modernist or Post-Mondernist work.

Josie Rush said:

Aja, I absolutely agree. With Wordsworth, his power is his poison, so to speak. Sometimes I'll read one of his poems and feel that I completely understand where he's coming from. Other times, I'll finish reading a poem and think, "So the theme is...flowers are pretty?" Wordsworth is hit or miss with me.

On Wordsworth: I actually agree with those critics about Wordsworth's poetry being "simple both in theme and word selection." The difference is that I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy reading Wordsworth sometimes because it lets me step back from all the insanity of moving walkways (those escalator-ish sidewalks), the almost always available internet, texting, and all the other technology that rules my life. Now I love technology, but sometimes it makes me forget the beauty of nature.

I think that's what Wordsworth says in "The World Is Too Much With Us," far before humans had as many technological distractions as we do today. He doesn't need to be complex in theme and word selection, because then he would fall prey to the world he's denouncing. By sticking to that simplicity, he emphasizes his sentiments about valuing the natural world.

When you're stressed, what would you rather think about: this or this? (The first picture is from wikipedia. The second is from me).

Josie Rush said:

Good point, Karyssa. I never really thought about the simplicity of Wordsworth the way you worded it, but it makes perfect sense. If he got too in-depth and confusing, his work would be thematically contradictory.

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