The works of William Wordsworth and Alexander Pope have similarities and differences. The poems of Wordsworth belong to the period of Romanticism, while Pope was inspired by the ideas of Neoclassicism. This paper will compare and contrast these two artists and their poems, The World is Too Much with Us by William Wordsworth and The Essay on Man by Alexander Pope. First, paper will discuss their lives and the factors that influenced their literary work. Later, the aforementioned poems will be analyzed and interpreted.
The ideas of William Godwin greatly influenced the life of Wordsworth and his writing considering the principles that Godwin appeared to defend during the French Revolution resisting social injustice. Moreover, the poet strongly believed in the “natural sublime”, where sublime means the amazement and fear of the prominence and magnificence. His works however were not so deeply focused on the nature as opposite to the writings by Pope. Wordsworth’s poems are brief and dramatic; some are dedicated to his beloved sister Dorothy. In some works, he glorifies plants, birds, and other elements of nature’s divine design; other poems describe the lives of fellow countryside folks showing the simple truths of human character. The author believed that poetry is the most philosophical of all writing that aims at instilling the vibrant truth in the hearts through the ardour and passion.
During the neoclassical period, Alexander Pope was considered to be the most significant poet and a prominent social critic. His works provide the insight into social and political relationships. He influenced political oppression and created such an individual’s self-illustration on which even the modern audience can relate. He was always out with the high literacy circles and built strong ties with the greatest satirists of his time. His friends described him as faithful, smart, and helpful, as he demonstrated willingness to help them in their works. His poems dedicated to nature were influenced by his good friend and mentor Jonathan Swift.
However, Pope had enemies because of his perception of people and political manipulations. His poems demonstrate his condemnation of power structures and influential individuals, but not their background in politics or political parties. When he talked about men aspiring to power, he described them as the enemies of all people and rejected them the qualities of genuine intelligence and courage by calling them “wickedly wise” and “madly fearless” portraying the silliness of a villain. It can be observed that Wordsworth and Pope are similar in ways that they both resisted social injustice and their poems were influenced by nature. However, there are some differences between the ideological bases of these two poets. The power of nature is innate to Wordsworth and social injustice feeling was influenced by one man, Godwin, while for Pope, social injustice was the central feature of his poems and the inclusion of nature was influenced by a friend, Jonathan Swift.
The World is Too Much with Us is deeply related to the “natural sublime”. Wordsworth described how nature was wasted because of the people’s activities. This is evident in the lines:
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 (Wordsworth 1807).
Wordsworth shows his deep feelings of sadness and peace towards the nature: “So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpse that would make me less forlorn” (Wordsworth 1807). Thus, the description used for Wordsworth’s poems during the Romantic poetic age is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions remembered in harmony. Moreover, Romantic poetry is characterized by short poems often consisting of a few lines. This poem is a good example of classical Romantic poetry as it has only fourteen lines.
In contrast to a few lines of Wordsworth’s poem, Pope’s Essay on Man is quite long and comprises four epistles relating the nature and state of man to universe, individual, society, and happiness. The first epistle portrays the nature and state of man with regard to the universe. the author depicts the universe as including the nature, but they unite in harmony as one:
all are but parts of one stupendous whole,
whose body nature is, and God the soul;
that changed thro’ all, and yet in all the same (Pope 1734).
Further, he demonstrates how fast the progress is, and that this development may be detrimental causing everything to be outbalanced or even destroyed:
Above, how high, progressive life may go!
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd (Pope 1734).
The next epistle reflects the nature and state of man with respect to a man as an individual. He illustrates how a man can fool himself imitating God and His works: “Go wondrous creature, mount where science guides..... and quitting sense call imitating God, go teach eternal wisdom how to rule, then drop into thyself and be a fool” (Pope 1734). The third epistle depicts the nature and state of man with respect to society. The author describes how society or societal laws establish fear or love and influence people. In the last lines, Pope demonstrates how God and nature are connected in a universal structure, thus offering love to oneself and society. In the last epistle, Pope talks about the nature and state of man with respect to happiness. He asserts that acts resulting in happiness should not just be good for one but for all: “remember man the universal cause, acts not by partial, but by general laws; and what makes happiness we justly call subsist not in the good of one, but all” (Pope 1734).
To conclude, William Wordsworth and Alexander Pope are similar in some ways, but there are differences in their work and factors that influenced their poetry. Both resisted social injustice and their poems were influenced by nature. In the World is Too Much with Us, it is evident how Wordsworth described the idea of “natural sublime”. In The Essay on Man, the author described nature from another point of view, namely, how it relates to the society and universe. Further, it should be noticed that the poem of Wordsworth is quite short, while that of Pope is very lengthy, which is typical of the neo-classical period.