Friday, 14 February 2014

Sonnet - William Wordsworth

I'm working my way through Wordsworth's Poetical Works at the moment (1867 edition, or possibly earlier - definitely the oldest in my collection so far), and came across a sonnet, entitled simply 'Written in London, September, 1802'. Sorry about the poor quality of the image, my camera phone doesn't like taking pictures in focus of anything less than a couple of metres away. The text on the inside cover reads: "A birthday gift from Mrs Pearson, Febry 7th 1867". It was in the library of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, until presumably being sold ex libris at some point, and then was discovered in a second-hand bookshop by me a couple of years ago.

I was struck by how relevant the sentiment of this sonnet is today - this is essentially a complaint about materialism and celebrity culture ruining the standards of life, written more than 200 years ago.

O Friend! I know not which way I must look
For comfort, being, as I am, oppress'd
To think that now our life is only dress'd
For show: mean handiwork of craftsman, cook,
Or groom! We must run glittering like a brook
In the open sunshine, or we are unblest:
The wealthiest man among us is the best:
No grandeur now, in Nature or in book,
Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense,
This is idolatry; and these we adore:
Plain living and high thinking are no more:
The homely beauty of the good old cause
Is gone, our peace, our fearful innocence,
And pure religion breathing household laws.

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