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William Wordsworth

The world is
too much with us

More challenging questions!

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 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;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"
  • What does the poet mean when he says, "The World is too much with us"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What does the poet mean when he says, "We lay waste our powers"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • Why does the poet use an upper-case N when he refers to "Nature"? (4)

[Need help?]

"This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not."
  • Comment on the imagery in the line, "This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon". (4)

[Need help?]

  • What point is the poet making in these words? (4)

[Need help?]

"I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
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 does the poet mean when he says, "I'd rather be a pagan suckled in a creed outworn"? (4)

[Need help?]

  • What is the purpose of the diaeresis in "wreathéd"? (4)

[Need help?]

Wordsworth has been described as a nature poet.
  • Would you agree that this is an apt description? (4)

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