The world is changing and evolving at an astounding rate. Within the lastone hundred years, the Western community has seen advances in technologyand medicine that has improved the lifestyles and longevity of almostevery individual.
Within the last two hundred years, we have seen twoWorld Wars, and countless disputes over false borders created bycolonialists, slavery, and every horrid form of human sufferingimaginable! Human lifestyles and cultures are changing every minute. Whileour grandparents and ancestors were growing-up, do you think that theyever imagined the world we live in today?What is to come is almostinconceivable to us now. In this world, the only thing we can be sure ofis that everything will change. With all of these transformationshappening, it is a wonder that a great poet may write words over onehundred years ago, that are still relevant in today s modern world.
It isalso remarkable that their written words can tell us more about ourpresent, th! an they did about our past. Is it just an illusion that our world isevolving, or do these great poets have the power to see into the future?In this brief essay, I will investigate the immortal characteristics ofpoetry written between 1794 and 1919. And, I will show that theseclassical poems can actually hold more relevance today, than they did inthe year they were written. Along the way, we will pay close attention tothe style of the poetry, and the strength of words and symbols used tointensify the poets revelations.
The World Is Too Much with Us, writtenby William Wordsworth in 1807 is a warning to his generation, that theyare losing sight of what is truly important in this world: nature and God.To some, they are one in the same. As if lacking appreciation for thenatural gifts of God is not sin enough, we add to it the insult of pridefor our rape of His land. Wordsworth makes this poetic message immortalwith his powerful and emotional words.
Let us study his po! werful style: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting andspending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours;We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! (Lines 1 – 4) Materialism,wasteful selfishness, prostitution! These are the images that these linesbring to me!Yet, is it not more true today than in Wordsworth s time,that we are a culture of people who simply consume and waste? The thirdline awakens me, and says that I have been raised with the mentality thatI am not a part of nature, and that I do not identify my needs with thoseof nature s needs. This mentality may have been quite true in 1807, but itis surely more true in 1996. There is absolute disregard of nature in theacts of well respected western corporations. Would someone who is in-touchwith nature orchestrate the slash and burn of beautiful rain forests ofSouth America, or the life giving jungles of Africa and Asia?Wouldsomeone who is in-touch with nature dump c! hemical waste into waters that are home to billions of plants and animals? These and other abominations have surely increased in the last 189 yearssince this poem was written.
What makes the sin even worse is the factthat men who order this destruction are well respected people in ourculture. The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gatherednow like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune;It moves us not. Great God! (Lines 6 – 9) Wordsworth gives life tonature in his words, and displays to us nature s agony and pain, howlingat all hours.But, we listen not! For we are out of tune, and much tooimportant to ourselves, that we may not listen to the wind, rain, land orsea.
I do not know which is the greater sin: the pillage of the earth snatural beauty, or man s torturous inhumanity toward his fellow man. London, written in 1794, by William Blake is a poem of civilization sdecline and also the decline of compassion and humanit! y. I wander thro each charter d street, Near where the charter d Thames does flow, And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe.London, a city of millions, with very few who are wealthyenough to own land.
In a subtle way, Blake tells us that every inch ofLondon is owned the charter d streets, the charter d Thames. It is areflection of the immaturity of our culture that we allow just 5% of theworld s population to control 80% of the world s wealth, leaving most inutter poverty. This is especially true today: the United States frequentlydumps excess farm and dairy produce to keep their market price high,rather than share the excess food with the hungry people of the world.During Blake s time, the world was not in such excess as it is today.
Itseems that in our culture, the more we have, the more we waste. How theChimney-Sweeper s cry Every blackning Church appalls, And the haplessSoldier s sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls. (! Lines 9 – 12) Every potent word of these four lines inject emotions ofgrief, hopelessness, and death: the images of the child s cry, theblackning Church, and blood on Palace walls. The words force us to mournthe decline of London s society.
The history of the child enslavement ofchimney sweepers, during Blake s time, was a horrid inhumanity tochildren.Great Britain and other western nations would like to praisethemselves for abolishing this sort of slavery. However, the inhumanity ofchild enslavement is more true today than in the seventeen and eighteenhundreds. The sin of enslavement is even more heightened, becauseneocolonialism and multinational corporations have moved their inhumanebusiness practices to developing countries, where they may take advantageof the desperation and poverty of those areas.
In addition, the disturbingimages of slavery are hidden from westerners who respect the success ofmultinational corporations. Yes, Blake s poem is very relevant t! day. It is difficult to choose among William Butler Yeats most timelesspoems, because every one of them has immortal qualities. His poem, TheSecond Coming, not only embraces eternal relevance and a deepunderstanding of humanity s history, but also the fruits of prophesy! Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear thefalconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy isloosed upon the world (Lines 1 – 4) With respect to the two major topicsdiscussed before (man s inhumanity and disrespect for nature), this stanzaoffers much insight into the progression of humanity.
The state of declinethat was described in poems written over one hundred years ago described ahuman cultural trend that is to continue on an intensifying cycle, likethe widening gyre. Today, we are approaching a state of completedetachment from our origin, our nature and our God: The falcon cannothear the falconer, as insightfully described by Yeats. This stanza i! s so very relevant to us, because it symbolically describes every aspectof the progression of humanity! Yeats poetry transcends immortality, andbecomes prophetic! His widening gyre symbolizes the climactic end, untilanarchy is upon us.Every word of his poem creates a deep fear ofhumanity s downward spiral.
The relevance of poetry is undeniable. AsPercy Bysshe Shelley admits, A poem is the very image of life expressedin its eternal truth. It is an eternal truth that can offer wisdom forhundreds of years after the poem s birth. A prophet or a mystic mayattempt to tell ones future; but, the poet approaches from a verydifferent angle.
The poet becomes intimate with the nature of humanity,and its timeless characteristics. In this way, the poet surrounds himselfin a divine sort of wisdom.Truly, poetry is immortal. To explore thewisdom and symbolic message of poetry is an exciting journey for me.
As achild, I was never introduced to poetry, and certainly never wa! s exposed to its importance. To study the deeper meaning of poetry hasbeen a challenge and an adventure. It has brought my mind to contemplatethings to which I have never attached a value, such as my personalconnection with nature. I agree with Shelley, that poetry awakens andenlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousandunapprehended combinations of thought.