Here is "The World is Too Much with Us" (1807) by William Wordsworth (1770-1850):
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.
And here is my personal postscript:
This Italian sonnet -- with its highly structured meter (iambic pentameter) and rhyme scheme (abba/abba/cdcdcd), somewhat formal diction, classical allusions, and wistful tone -- has long been one of my favorite poems. And in my present circumstances in life, I find special contemporary relevance in Wordsworth's attitude toward the decadence and wastefulness of his era. Moreover, as I now live (at least for a while longer) a stone's throw from the Gulf of Mexico, I read Wordsworth's poem as a reminder that a solitary walk on the beach might be just what I need right now. Perhaps Proteus -- Poseidon's son -- will rise from the surf, change shape, and tell me something about the future. Perhaps Triton -- another of Poseidon's sons -- will summon and entertain me by blowing upon his conch shell. In any case, I ought to wander on the shore and see in Nature a few things that just might make me less forlorn.
Moreover, reading this poem this morning, I remember using it often in syllabi during my 15 years as an adjunct teacher of literature and composition. Then, letting my mind wander, I wonder how I as a feckless fellow from a western Pennsylvania coal-mining town went from gas company ditch digger (as an 18-year old in the early 1960s) to college teacher (as a 54 year old near the end of the 20th century). The many career paths taken in that journey now boggle my mind. Perhaps I will have more to say about that pilgrimage and my multiple careers in upcoming postings.
However, all of this leads me to ask you a couple of questions: (1) Am I misreading Wordsworth's tone in this poem? (2) What poets and poems do you turn to when you need to be made "less forlorn"?