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 (1833)
William Wordsworth is one of the most taught English Romantic poets in academia. His lesser known 1833 poem, “Steamboats, Viaducts, And Railways”, details Wordsworth’s concern with society’s rapid embrace of industrialization, while also showing Wordsworth’s Romantic praise of the improvements done through this technology. The title of the poem provides examples of this industrialization, both on land and at sea, which are “at war / With old poetic feeling” (Lines 1-2), suggesting that industry and modernization is destructively opposite of the traditional Romantic notion of simplicity and stillness.
The second statement in the stanza, represented in lines 3-8 detail an ode to these technological advancements, stating that these steamboats, viaducts, and railways further the “Mind’s gaining that prophetic sense / Of future change” (Lines 6-7). Nature, symbolically feminine, embraces the “harsh features” of technology (traditionally masculine). Time (also masculine—possibly suggestive of the figure of “Father Time”) is pleased with technology’s triumph over Space, correlating to the railroads, viaducts, and steamboats as modes of transportation that connects people across long distances.
So although Romantics are known for the antagonistic approach towards technology, Wordsworth includes poems that actually praise the advancements while still keeping with his overall concerns.
Wordsworth, William. “Steamboats, Viaducts, And Railways”. 1833. Retrieved from https://stevenedwardjones.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/f18texts2.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.