Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways By William Wordsworth

Categories: Plot William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth's poem “Steamboats, Viaducts and Railways”, written in 1833, is struggling between embracing new “Motions and means” and rejecting them. The author includes alliteration, personification, and apostrophes all to display the increasing rate of technology in the society of the 19th century. Wordsworth’s poem is structured as a sonnet consisting of fourteen lines, which are broken up into three stanzas. This poem follows a clear rhyme scheme abba/cddc in the first 8 lines, while the the last six lines have a rhyme scheme variation efgfeg.

The initial octave of the poem displays rivalry between nature and technology, and describes outcomes of the advancing human mind. Wordsworth utilizes alliteration in the first line of the poem through the words “Motions and means” which denotatively implies the man made technological devices listed in the title of the poem. These devices are “at war” with “old poetic feeling” claims the speaker. New technology is intimidating at times because it is futuristic and unlike anything from the past or present.

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In reality, the new advancements are beneficial and important to society. “Nature” is personified by Wordsworth. Displayed in lines ten to thirteen, “Nature doth embrace”, as well as the technological advancement in which an apostrophe is displayed, as seen in lines three and four “Shall ye, by poets even… Nor shall your presence…” . This gives the impression of two competing rivals, who are pitting against each other by Wordsworth. He is essentially attributing human qualities to technology. In lines five and six, the author is signifying nature’s power and beauty, “The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar/ To the Mind’s gaining the prophetic sense” .

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The poet wishes to express that nature will withstand and ultimately overcome one’s emotions and, a human’s advancing mind. Moreover, although man is aware that technology is rapidly advancing, one will always stay partially with nature because of its beauty and purity.

Furthermore, the last six lines address nature embracing technology because it is an offspring of nature. Such inventions derive from nature and are therefore “Her lawful offspring”. This reconciliation is affected because “Time,” which is personified, is “Pleased,” and “Accepts...the proffered crown/Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime.” Wordsworth tries to convey, even things that appear unsightly, in contrary to nature, can be seen as offering hope to human beings over time. Not only does time approve of these new inventions, time is also only in the future. Wordsworth suggests, these technological innovations will be understood as “sublime”. Sublime refers to any spectacle or experience that is so grand and awe-inspiring it terrifies and, at the same time, exhilarates the beholder. Wordsworth’s use of the word “sublime” is interesting, as this word was formerly only used to describe nature. This furthers the previous impression of two human adversaries. The entire poem features ten enjambments, which give the effect of never-ending sentences. This alludes to the never-ending Industrial Revolution or the seemingly ceaseless advancement of technology in the society.

As a poet, Wordsworth clearly fears the advancement of technology, but as an admirer of nature and all of which that stems from nature, he cannot help but feel sympathetic towards the gradual changes. Wordsworth embodies the dilemma of romanticism, which is partially a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. He discovers, instead of rejecting technological progress, one can embrace it, as technology is a spawn of humankind, who in turn is a spawn of nature. Hence, technology is a derivative of nature and must be embraced by those who love nature.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways By William Wordsworth. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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