A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
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!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! 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 wreathèd horn.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was born in Cumbria, England. His mother and father died when he was a child—an experience that shaped much of his later work. Wordsworth studied at St. John’s College in Cambridge, but before his final semester, he quit school and set out on a walking tour of Europe, an experience that influenced both his poetry and his political sensibilities. An extended period of living in France shortly after the French Revolution brought about Wordsworth’s sympathy for the lives of common men. Wordsworth’s earliest poetry was published in 1793 in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches.
In 1795 Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two poets published the famous Lyrical Ballads in 1798. While the poems themselves are some of the most influential in Western literature, it is the preface to the second edition that remains one of the most important testaments to a poet’s views on both his craft and his place in the world. In the preface, Wordsworth claims that poetic diction should be based on the speech of ordinary people — a revolutionary idea at the time — and he argues against the poetic tastes of his contemporaries who valued epic poetry above the lyric.
Wordsworth’s most famous work, The Prelude (1850), is a long poem considered by many to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. Revised numerous times, it chronicles the spiritual life of the poet and marks the birth of a new genre — the autobiographical poem. The poet died at Rydal Mount on April 23, 1850, leaving his wife Mary to publish The Prelude three months later.
Biography adapted from various sources including poets.org.