Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways

Imagining Future With William Wordsworth

4 min read by Dmitri. Published in Essays, Stories.

Motions and Means, on land and sea at war

With old poetic feeling, not for this,

Shall ye, by Poets even, be judged amiss!

Nor shall your presence, howsoe’er it mar

The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar

To the Mind’s gaining that prophetic sense

Of future change, that point of vision, whence

May be discovered what in soul ye are.

In spite of all that beauty may disown

In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace

Her lawful offspring in Man’s art; and Time,

Pleased with your triumphs o’er his brother Space,

Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown

Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime.

❦❧

William Wordsworth’s 1833 poem begins with his depiction of the scarring across the natural landscape. While he does not hide his aversion towards the harsh features of man’s creations, the poet does not stop there. He imagines nature as an accepting being.

This poem was written at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution (or Technological Revolution). We are now experiencing the third one: the Digital Revolution.

All three revolutions have contributed a slew of inventions which have been altering our landscape at an accelerating pace.

Should William have published his poem today, it could be said that Nature still does not fight back our sprawl over its vast terrain. With Time’s advance, however, nature’s course is reliably predicted to change. As we run out of clean water, air, and food, Nature may take enough lives to extinguish our progress along with smiles and cheers.

The outlook is grim, though Time certainly does not pass unentertained. Should anyone capable of sharing human experience read the records from the turbulent twenty-first century they will find plenty of amusement.

Perhaps even beauty.