Is the world just too much?
With Wellbeing at the top of agenda today it might seem that this is all new and something we have only just discovered – well this is not so!
In 1911 W H Davies published a poem that warned of the perils of our industrial society. Entitled “Leisure” it spoke about not making time for ourselves, slowing our lives down. Davies criticises the impact of the second industrial revolution:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.Leisure by William Henry Davies 1911
However, this is not our earliest warning. It is said that Davies took as his inspiration a sonnet by William Wordsworth entitled “The World is too much with us” written in 1802. In this sonnet Wordsworth criticises the world of the first industrial revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from 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.The World is too much with us by William Wordsworth 1802