December 9, 2005

Jeremy Foote

Professor Cutler

English 363

9 December 2005

τό καλόν Decreed in the Marketplace: Commodification and the Destruction of the Infinite

The 1920s were a unique time in American and Western European history. World War I, supposedly “the war to end all wars” and the the flu pandemic, the worst disease epidemic in history, had just ended. They were replaced by a booming economy and a growing, socially mobile population. Middle-class magazines like The American Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and The Connoisseur are replete with the images of consumerism and the burgeoning bourgeois.

The articles and advertisements in these magazines portray the 1920s middle class as optimistic and hopeful. Yet the social and economic benefits of consumerism were paralleled for some by feelings of disconnect, and an inability to deal with the problems of death and inhumanity raised by World War I. In the poems “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” by Ezra Pound and “Spring,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay the poets reveal that one of the reasons for these feelings is that the commodification of culture and art inhibit the ability for people to appreciate the truly beautiful. From this perspective, the seemingly optimistic articles and advertisements can be seen as attempts to use consumerism to mask the problems of modern life because commodified art and culture do not have the power to deal with eternal questions.

The Modernist disdain for consumerism is evident throughout “Hugh Selwyn,” and is particularly scathing in Mauberley's discussion with Mr. Nixon. Nixon tells Mauberley, “"I never mentioned a man but with the view / "Of selling my own works. / "The tip's a good one, as for literature / "It gives no man a sinecure. / "And no one knows, at sight, a masterpiece. / "And give up verse, my boy, / "There's nothing in it" (lines 161-67). Pound is disgusted by and disappointed in, a people who prefer the cheap and the mass-produced to an understanding of true art. Thus Pound contrasts his hero in “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” who, “Observed the elegance of Circe's hair” contrasted with the middle class who prefer “the mottoes on sun-dials” and the “beauty decreed in the marketplace” (15-16; 47-48). When Pound saw an article like “New Stone Age in Which We Are Living,” published 23 January 1921, he must have cringed. The author of the article lauds the modern use of concrete as the dawning of a new age of mankind. He compares modern concrete structures like the Panama Canal to ancient wonders, claiming that, “In this new stone age we are surrounded on all sides by construction achievements as great as the Pyramids that owe their existence to concrete” (“New Stone Age”). This captures the problems of commodification that Pound was so worried about. Concrete is mass-produced, homogeneous, quickly assembled, and far from artistic. In addition, it hinders the ability to appreciate the truly magnificent, as evidenced by the author's claim that we are surrounded by concrete structures as great as the Pyramids. It is easy to see why Pound might believe that, “The 'age demanded' chiefly a mould in plaster, / Made with no loss of time, / A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster / Or the 'sculpture' of rhyme” (31-32).

Much like in Hemingway's “The Sun Also Rises,” the war is the silent but salient background necessary to comprehend the 1920s. The articles and advertisements of the magazines, as well as the literature of Pound and Millay can only really be understood when we realize that they are attempting, at least at some level, to deal with the questions and problems raised by what was then the worst war in world history. When war and difficulty strike, people naturally look to the eternal things like love and beauty in order to buoy and comfort them. This tendency occurs throughout literature, from Homer's Odyssey to Willa Cather's My Antonia to Millay's “Spring”. As Millay says, “The sun is hot on my neck as I observe / The spikes of the crocus. / The smell of the earth is good. / It is apparent that there is no death” (6-9). Modernism is unique because its authors seem to find this search much more difficult than their predecessors. As Millay says in the next lines of “Spring,” “But what does [the fact that there is no death] signify? . . . Life in itself / Is nothing, / An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs” (10-15). The agony of an age's unanswered questions is apparent throughout Millay's work. Although the mass media and the poets are both attempting to address the problems of the war, they do so in very different ways. The mass media attempts to use commodification as a way to fight commodification, while the artists attempt to attack the foundations of modern consumer culture.

In one sense, we should not be surprised that the mass media of the early 20s would turn to commodification and mass production as a means of dealing with problems. People had learned of the potency of commodification from World War I. The war was so devastatingly powerful because it was mass-produced death. Bombs and machine guns made death a product. It was not death itself that was so detrimental to the collective psyche, but the commodification of death. Commodification made war and death not only inhumane but inhuman. Pound explained this new type of war, saying that it included “Daring as never before, wastage as never before . . . / fortitude as never before / frankness as never before, / disillusions as never told in the old days / hysterias, trench confessions / laughter out of dead bellies” (IV.19-26). The feeling that the war was not only horrific, but pointless, is evidenced in the next stanza, where Pound says, “There died a myriad, / And of the best, among them, / For an old bitch gone in the teeth, /For a botched civilization” (V.1-4) This was a war different from those fought before, and commodification had made it the horror that it was. The mass media, if subconsciously, attempted to use consumerism and commodification in order to try to deal with the problems of the age.

Instead of dealing directly with the war, however, commodification attempts to minimize it and divert attention away from the problems. One of the most direct ways in which this is done is in the article “Memorabilia of the War With Germany” from The New York Times Book Review. The article explains that a compilation of “pictures, autograph statements and messages, poems, original manuscripts, orders for movements of troops written out by distinguished Generals, [and] musical scores” will be auctioned off and “the receipts are to be equally divided between the New York and Boston committees of the Fatherless Children” (“Memorabilia”). This article attempts to change what was a horrific, very recent war into a commodity. After all, anything that has “memorabilia” can't have been that bad, after all. The lasting effects of the war are implied and subsequently swept under the rug by the mention of the “New York and Boston committees of the Fatherless Children.” The war has left these communities with myriad orphans and fatherless children. The solution to the problem is put forward – it is money. The consumer culture of the early 20th century introduces not only the commodification of products, but of virtues. You can measure your charity or goodness very simply – by how much money you give to the Fatherless Children committees.

The second way in which the mass media attempted to deal with the problem of meaninglessness was through social mobility. Wealth, and an understanding of how to use wealth “properly” provided a feeling of meaning and individuality. Much of The American Magazine is dominated by advertisements, often taking up more than half of the space on a page (see “The Clubfellow Knows”). In general, the advertisements are for either means of obtaining a higher social status, such as correspondence schools and home study courses or symbols of a stats already attained, such as cigars, cars, and jewelry. One ad, accompanied by a drawing of a man in a well-tailored suit, captured this attitude: “The clubfellow knows men who invariably keep up with the modes and who realize the importance of detail in dress, instinctively turn to Krementz correct evening jewelry” (“The Clubfellow Knows”) The feeling of exclusivity and meaning granted by wealth that “the clubfellow” receives are, from a Poundian perspective, just a way of ignoring deeper problems.

For Pound, there is still the potential for meaning, not in commodification, but in looking to the mythic past. His (perhaps autobiographical) hero, Hugh Mauberley, is able to appreciate “the dead art / Of poetry” and “the obscure reveries / Of the inward gaze” (2-3; 25-26). By looking back to a time before the Industrial Age, and before mass production, one can still find the beauty and meaning needed to answer the eternal questions.

This idea is questioned by the existence of magazines like The Connoisseur. This magazine purports to teach good taste, and sells things necessary for those with good taste. The first edition of the magazine claims, “we will do our best to reach and adhere to the high standard at which the founders of such a magazine as this must necessarily aim, since it caters for connoisseurs—for those who know” (“A Word of Introduction”). In a sense, the magazine commodifies Pound's ideas about beauty: namely, that beauty is only found by looking to the past. One particularly telling advertisement says, “Each [family Bible box], however humble, seemed to be an individual effort, for the word 'manufacture' as understood to-day was not synonymous with the old coffer's and cabinet-maker's craft” (“Essex Bygones”). Nearly everything in the magazine is antique, implying that it is in the past that beauty is to be found. If the newly mass-produced is not beautiful, then why would the past, repackaged and mass-produced, still be beautiful?

This revelation leads us to question the nature of poetry in the modern world. If even the anciently beautiful, when reproduced and commodified lose their power, then is it possible for even a poet to escape consumerism? The fact that Pound himself published in mass-printed literary journals and magazines greatly undermines his poetry. He was dependent on a public audience to support him (Cutler 89). We are led to question whether Pound is a product of the consumer society as much as he is a critic of it. Perhaps his poetry is, at least in part, produced in order to fill a niche market. This suspicion leads Ed Cutler to claim, “twentieth-century modernism's most cherished self-image, ironic autonomy, must be viewed with deep historical suspicion” (171).

One reading of Millay seems to agree with this cynicism about the power of the poet. In her poem “Spring,” Millay speaks to April, asking, “To what purpose, April, do you return again? / Beauty is not enough” (1-2). The symbols of Millay's discovery of beauty's impotence are found throughout the poem. April, long symbolic of love, resurrection, and life, becomes only a babbling idiot when she is made a product (18). Perhaps one reason that April no longer has the power that she once did is because poetry has become a commodity as much as anything else. We are led to wonder, if poets are producing art for the sake of a mass audience, can they still have the power to describe the beautiful, like April, in a way that will touch and move us? Millay seems to suggest that they cannot.

The modern world of consumerism and mass production seems to leave nothing uncommodified. While mass media and poetry attempt to deal with the devastation caused by the negative effects of the modern world, they must work from within the constraints of a commodified world. This is a world in which, in some respects we have put a price tag on morals and values and eternal ideals such as beauty. We are led to wonder if this quantification makes these values finite, and being finite makes them unable to deal with infinite questions about death and meaning. Perhaps April can no longer serve her purpose if her beauty cannot be appreciated because it has been sold, no matter the price.

Works Cited

A Word of Introduction.” The Connoisseur Sept. 1901: 1.

Cutler, Edward S. Recovering the New. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2003.

Essex Bygones: Part II.” The Connoisseur Jan. 1920: 26.

Memorabilia of the War With Germany.” The New York Times Book Review and Magazine 20 February 1921: 11.

New Stone Age in Which We Are Living.” The New York Times Book Review and Magazine 23 January 1921: 26.

Pound, Ezra. “from Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Life and Contacts).” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter et al. 5th ed. Vol. D. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 1114-23.

St. Vincent Millay, Edna. “Spring.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter et al. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 1100.

The Clubfellow Knows.” The American Magazine March 1921: 119.

December 2, 2005

Natural Disasters and the Economy

Jeremy Foote

Professor Boswell

English 312

12 October 2005

On Saturday, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan, killing an estimated 35,000 people, making this one of the most lethal disasters in history. The news of this disaster came right on the heels of two major hurricanes in the United States. The burgeoning population of the world, combined with almost constant advances in communications technology have made natural disasters almost daily fare. The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters has led experts to examine the long-term economic effects of disasters locally, nationally, and internationally. Obviously, in the wake of natural disasters there are a multitude of factors that affect the long-term macroeconomic effects on each of these economies, and exploring each of these factors is simply beyond the scope of this paper. I will, therefore, limit myself to the question of the effect of natural disaster fatalities on the national economies of the countries where they occur.

Although the immediate economic influence of natural disasters of any sort is, well, disastrous, it has become generally accepted that the long-term economic consequences of most disasters are fairly limited, especially at national and international levels. (Charvériat, 18). The economic influence of natural disasters may even lead to economic growth in some cases, as suggested by Mark Skidmore and Hideki Toya, for example (Skidmore). As a caveat, it should be noted that these conclusions are most valid for mild to moderate disasters in countries with fairly diversified economies. Some natural disasters are so severe in their scope or so devastating to a vital component of a national economy that the economy is crippled for years.

The key to economic recovery is a national and international economy willing and capable of investing in reconstruction. As Charvériat claims, “The impact of disasters on GDP growth can be expected to be transitory when the overall public and private investment effort for reconstruction (which boosts the growth rate of gross fixed capital formation) outweighs the adverse growth effects of the disasters . . . In addition, the process of replacement of lost fixed capital can be expected to raise its quality, and therefore capital productivity” (15-6). An important step in determining GDP growth, then, depends on determining the level of “adverse growth affects”. The “adverse growth effects” of disasters are varied, but the most powerful is the destruction of physical and human capital.

Although it is somewhat disturbing to discuss human lives, and human casualties, with the callous term “human capital loss”, understanding the effects of human fatalities on the economy is an important part of understanding overall economic effects. In severe natural disasters a major portion of the working population of an area can be decimated. Compounding the problem, evacuees are often reluctant to return to an area that no longer offers a home or a job, but still offers plenty of terrible memories. Despite these initial effects of disasters, the loss of human capital is generally quickly offset by increased rates of human capital accumulation, especially in countries that are prone to recurrent natural disasters (Skidmore).While labor forces may realign themselves within a country following a natural disaster, an examination of the Organization for Co-operation and Economic Development migration numbers reveals that workers do not emigrate out of a country following a disaster. In fact, a cursory examination of the data seems to indicate even a slightly negative correlation between disasters and immigration levels (Table B.1.1.). In sum, the loss of human capital in an affected area is a temporary problem, and workers are quickly replaced in most cases.

A demographic group that is affected even more than workers, though, is the elderly. Although the scope of natural disasters varies dramatically from one disaster to another, the group that is almost universally the most stricken in terms of casualties and fatalities is the elderly. Older members of a society, in the aggregate, are simply less able to deal with the demands and difficulties of natural disasters. They are not only less mobile and less physically able, but they are much more often affected by debilitating diseases or disabilities. These factors make survival, both during and after a disaster, a more difficult task. In truth, the plight of the elderly is one of the most disturbing results of natural disasters. It is important, however, to examine economic effects independently of emotional response.

Advances in medicine have caused the global life expectancy to rise from 47 years in 1950-1955 to 65 years in 2000-2005, and it is expected to reach 75 years by 2050 (World Population Prospects, 10). These changing demographics of the world population have become a major economic issue. By 2040, Japan, Spain and Italy will have one retiree for every active worker in their society (Weisman, 3). The reason that these statistics represent a problem is that the elderly, in the aggregate, are a drain on the economy. This is especially true in countries like the U.K. or Sweden, countries with extensive health care and welfare systems. In these countries economies spend billions of dollars on the elderly, and get very little back in return. On an even more basic level, the elderly are consumers without being producers. And while consumption does hold an important place in economic growth, even the type of consumers that the elderly are is less beneficial than other groups. The elderly generally purchase primarily inelastic goods, such as food and clothing. In addition, while risky investments like stocks and venture capital are the most advantageous for a growth economy, the elderly generally invest in short-term and very conservative commodities, like bonds or savings accounts. In sum, even the elderly who are not a drain on the economy are not, in general, as beneficial to a growth economy as their younger counterparts.

Any time that an economy is able to reduce expenses, that economy will be benefited. Thus, as harsh as it is to speak of individuals as expenses, by killing a disproportionate number of the elderly, natural disasters have a hidden, positive effect on the national economies where they occur. It may very well be impossible to quantify these effects, and it is certainly repellent to our sensibilities to even attempt to measure the benefits of people dying. Because economies naturally replace lost workers very quickly the human capital loss is transitory. Although we may be tempted to focus solely on the effect of working-age fatalities, we should not discount other, more emotionally-charged data. The effect of elderly casualties on certain post-disaster economies can be a significant factor in influencing economic growth, and should not be ignored simply because it justifiably pushes our emotional buttons.

Works Cited

Céline Charvériat. “Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Overview of Risk”. Inter-American Development Bank. October 2000 .

Skidmore, Mark and Hideki Toya. “Do Natural Disasters Promote Long-Run Growth?” Economic Inquiry. 40.4: 664-687 <>.

World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision; Highlights”. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


Table B.1.1. “Inflows of foreign population by nationality”. OECD >

Born Into Modernity

Jeremy Foote

Professor Cutler

English 363

27 October 2005

Born into Modernity: The Contemporary Attitude Toward Modernism

On my first day of kindergarten I wouldn't leave my mom's side. I am the oldest child in my family, and therefore the first to go to kindergarten, and I was scared. I didn't know the teacher, I didn't know the other kids, and I didn't know what was going to happen. I soon realized that although it was true that I could no longer spend all my time at home with my family, kindergarten was an all right place, and there were things to learn there. In a similar way, Modernist writers saw the brave new world of technology and mass-production, and they were scared. Although the concerns that dominated the thoughts of the Modernists are still with us, our views toward them have changed and, in many ways, matured.

For example, our view toward the past has undergone an almost textbook-perfect didactic change. The early Modernist view toward the past is expressed in Eliot's “Tradition and the Individual Talent” when he says, “the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order” (1286). Early Modernists like Eliot, Pound, and to an extent Willa Cather, believed that in order to overcome the fragmenting effects of the modern life, the individual had to comprehend and appreciate the mythic past. This idea changed dramatically with the avant-gardes, and especially the Futurists. They believed that the modern world required not only a new form of art, but a complete break with, and destruction of, the past. For example, Marinetti's “Manifesto of Futurism” makes explicit the Futurists' desire to “demolish museums and libraries” and “fight morality”. Contemporary society has rejected the idea that only the novel is worthwhile. In fact, the nearly continuous attempts by Experimentalists to shock us has made the novel no longer avant-garde, but passé. While we have rejected much of the inherent importance of the novel, we have maintained some of the skepticism of the past that Modernism taught us. For example, we seem almost obsessed with proving that the past wasn't as idyllic as we once thought, as evidenced by the publishing of DNA evidence showing Thomas Jefferson as a philanderer and the book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, which claims that Abraham Lincoln was bisexual. There is, however, still a deep respect for, and interest in, the past. We have become the generation of criticism; we respect the past, but we have maintained some of the Futurist skepticism of it.

This skepticism of the past is evidence of another aspect of our society which has departed from the philosophy of the Modernists. A society which is so steeped in criticism obviously believes in its own worth, for a willingness to criticize other cultures must be based on a belief in your own culture's validity. Modernists, on the other hand, doubted the worth of their society. They had became deeply disenchanted with the concept of social Darwinism, the idea that society was evolving, and becoming more and more advanced. Modernists claimed that the great irony of the Modern Age was that technology and communication advances did not lead to societal improvements, but actually caused us to regress culturally. This idea is found throughout Modernist literature, but one especially powerful example is Adam's “The Dynamo and the Virgin”. He says, “As he grew accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross . . . Among the thousand symbols of ultimate energy the dynamo was not so human as some, but it was the most expressive.” Adams claims that society is based on force, and that the old, spiritual forces of the feminine are being replaced by the amoral force of technology. Morality, according to the Modernists was being replaced by machinery, and we were becoming the worse for it.

In contemporary society, especially contemporary American society, social Darwinism seems to be making a comeback. The end of the Cold War and the spread of democracy to countries previously very undemocratic has given credence to the thought that perhaps the world is progressing after all. This attitude is reflected by the positive attitude toward foreign affairs that all of our recent Presidents have had, from Reagan's ultimatum to Gorbachev to Bush, Sr.'s “thousand points of light” to Clinton's peace talks with Palestine. We believe that not only is the world getting better, but that we are helping to effect those improvements.

Another attitude that has changed in some interesting ways is our attitude toward art. Modernists were appalled by a middle class who was exposed to some of the greatest art of the centuries, but made it kitsch. “The 'age demanded,'” as Pound says, “chiefly a mould in plaster, / Made with no loss of time” (1115). Mass production of art, according to the Modernists, denigrated art – it changed Venus into a plaster mould, a paperweight, and changed The Tempest into “that Shakespeherian Rag” (Eliot, 1296). In many ways, this criticism applies equally well, if not more aptly, to our society. Through the Internet we have access to, and we are exposed to, more of good art than any other society. And yet, we still buy Britney Spears and Thomas Kincaid (not that Thomas Kincaid deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Britney Spears). There is an ironic paradox among the middle class. They have inherited the Modernist distrust of kitsch, of “pop culture”, but they don't truly appreciate high culture. Those who admit to liking the Backstreet Boys or Christina Aguilera are mocked, but so are those who like Grieg or Bach. This leads some to attempt to find a middle ground, like certain professors who become almost obsessive over music from the '80s. We truly are an estranged society. In all seriousness, though, we seem to be at an adolescent period in regards to our attitude toward art. We recognize that what we produce is not truly art, but we are not yet ready to accept real art. One may argue that we have become a society amazingly apt to criticize, but unable to produce. We know good art when we see it, but we have lost the ability to create it.

Although we certainly do not live in a perfect society, and we do not have all of the answers to the important questions that Modernists were asking, we have come a long way. Technology and industry have changed from being an intimidating threat to becoming a part of life, for better and for worse. We have recognized and are dealing with the negative consequences of modernity, but we have also learned how to harness the positive elements, and in many respects, we are beginning to find meaning through modernity.

The World is Too Much With Us

Jeremy Foote

Professor Walker

English 292

19 September 2005

My grandfather was raised on a beautiful ranch in Southern Utah. Majestic red cliffs overhang a winding river and rolling fields of sweetgrass. Every time that I visit “The Ranch” I feel like vitality is being poured into me, and the world seems a more complete place. It is, to me, a deeply religious experience. Similarly, I believe that William Wordsworth's poem “The world is too much with us”, despite first impressions, espouses the idea that religion is both a prerequisite and a consequence of truly experiencing Nature.

Wordsworth's description of nature as “This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, / The winds that will be howling at all hours” is passionate, almost sexual (lines 5-6). It is obvious that Wordsworth has experienced the power that Nature can have over the human soul, and this poem is, in a sense, a lament over those who are unable to experience Nature in this way. It is also an examination of why his contemporaries seem unable to connect with Nature as he has. After his beautiful description of Nature’s power, Wordsworth describes how, “For this, for everything, we are out of tune; / It moves us not” (8-9). This passage is a poignant description of his sorrow at his society's inability to truly appreciate Nature. It also reinforces how vital Wordsworth considers an understanding of Nature to be to our understanding life, equating being out of tune with Nature as being out of tune “for everything” (8).

If “The world is too much with us” is indeed a critique of our inability to communicate with Nature, our first task is to determine the cause of this dissociation. Wordsworth directs our focus in the poem to his claim that he would “rather be / A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn” (9-10). Wordsworth knew his audience, and intended this statement to be shocking and controversial. At first blush, he seems to be claiming that he would rather be a Pagan than a Christian, that the truths of Christianity are not worth the neglect of Nature that has accompanied them, that something about the nature of Christianity makes us unable to find power and sustenance through nature.

I believe that this interpretation is misguided, however, and distorts the intended meaning of the poem. Wordsworth's exaltation of Paganism is never directed in opposition to Christianity. In fact, his lament is actually a prayer, directed to “Great God!” (9). Wordsworth is not saying that he would rather be a Pagan than a Christian, but that he would rather be a Pagan with the ability to appreciate and gain spiritual power from Nature than a Christian who is unable to. His real point is to show, in a very dramatic manner, the primacy of Nature over religion. He is teaching his reader that the ability to experience Nature's power brings man closer to God than religion, even true religion, ever can.

And yet, the fact that Wordsworth chooses Paganism rather than Atheism as his alternate belief system is very telling. This choice shows that there is a deep connection between Nature and a personal religion. In seeing the beauties of Nature, he believes that as a Pagan he would see Proteus's or Triton's glory. To experience Nature, for Wordsworth, is to experience God. Wordsworth is not complaining that a belief in the Christian God incapacitates our ability to appreciate Nature. Rather, he is mourning the fact that his Christian society is unable to come to know God more intimately through Nature. In reality, rather than religion and nature being diametrically opposed, Wordsworth seems to intimate that religion is a necessary prerequisite to understanding Nature – even if that religious belief is Paganism.

Reading the poem in this way, religion, instead of being an obstacle, is an aid to experiencing Nature. We are led to ask, then, what is the obstacle that puts us “out of tune”, to which “We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon” (8,4)? Rather than Christianity, it is materialism that strangles our ability to be moved by nature. As Wordsworth titles his poem, the “world” is what is too much with us; it is getting and spending that are the problem, not Christianity. The pursuit of materialism makes one unprepared for even the most dramatic of natural scenes. The Sea, capitalized and personified, baring her bosom – nature set out simply for the taking into our souls, ready to be “up-gathered now like sleeping flowers”(7) , does not move us. Even for Nature this obvious and open, materialism has put us out of tune.

If Nature and religious faith are viewed by Wordsworth as complementary, and I suggest that they are, then this poem is not only a lament for the loss of our connection with Nature, but also a lament for our loss of connection with God. A materialistic Christianity, despite her religious truths, is farther from God than a Paganism that recognizes and supplicates the power of Nature.

The point of “The world is too much with us”, then, is not a criticism of Christianity per se, but of the supposedly Christian societies that place getting and spending above Nature, and above Nature's God. What seems a sweeping condemnation may be actually a powerful reiteration of the Christian ideals of avoiding selfishness and worldliness. And what seems to be a poem about the futility of religion becomes a lesson on how to appreciate Nature's “glimpses that would make [us] less forlorn” through the necessary medium of religious belief (12).

Works Cited

Wordsworth, William. “The world is too much with us.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York, NY: Norton, 2000.