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William Wordsworth

The world is
too much with us

Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 20 January 2014
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The poet bemoans the fact that the modern industrial age has divorced us from nature. We lay waste our powers, he says, in the busy but futile effort of making money. He, on the other hand, would rather resort to ancient religious cults if they would re-unite him with the god of nature.


William Wordsworth was born in 1770 at Cockermouth in the heart of the Lake District. His early childhood was therefore spent in one of England's great wild places, playing in the hills around the lakes. This memory would be immortalised within his many poems.

His mother died when he was eight, and his father when he was 13. Although he was left almost destitute, his uncles helped the family through the crisis.

Wordsworth himself would be sent to school at Hawkshead, a small market town where the young boy would further his love of the countryside. What's more, the little country school which he attended encouraged him to develop his poetic talent.

Upon leaving school, Wordsworth attended Cambridge University to study law but, although he obtained his degree, the poet had little interest in legal matters. His heart was in the wild places which became the centre for his poetry.

He was eventually able to settle in the country where he became close friends with the great poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two would collaborate for many years.

Wordsworth himself became a prolific writer of nature poems. Indeed, so great did his reputation become that he was made Poet Laureate in 1843.

Wordsworth eventually died in 1850 at the age of 80.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

The structure of the sonnet:
  • What type of sonnet is this? How do you know? (4)

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  • What is the theme of the Octave? (2)

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  • What is the theme of the Sestet? (2)

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  • Where does the Octave end? (2)

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The words "rather" and "than" are usually associated, e.g. "I'd rather be a leader than a follower" and "She said she'd rather be short than be very tall".
  • Bearing this in mind, therefore, complete the poet's argument when he says, "I'd rather be a pagan suckled in a creed outworn than . . . " (2)

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"The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers."
  • Describe the two states of the wind that are portrayed here. (2)

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"So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn."
  • What is a "pleasant lea"? (2)

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  • Who are "Proteus" and "old Triton"? (4)

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