William Wordsworth- London, 1802


Today we live in a time of much turmoil. It is a time of ideological warfare often with its end in physical warfare. With ideological warfare comes moral revolution often with its end in physical revolution.

This is apparent in the middle east where battles are raging continuously. For instance, the idea of the long lost caliphate returning to Islam to declare an official Jihad is one of enormous implications. This, if you are not aware, is one of the greatest revolutions to hit the world. Not since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World Warr I has there been an established Caliph with the ability to declare a holy war on the unbelieving. This has great significance since it is an important step in the Eschatology (study of last things) for the Muslim people. This ideological revolution has led to one of the greatest military and political revolutions the Middle East has seen since what was called the “Arab Spring.” This has led directly to physical war with the surrounding states of Syria and Iraq. Most importantly, it shows the reality of the situation to the American people. We cannot pull out of the Middle East since much of this revolution falls at our feet because the radical elements were not fully stamped out. This means military presence and inevitably interaction in the Middle East again.

You have the very religiously fueled rise in world wide prominence and strength of Russia with Vladimir Putin at the helm. Not only is this a political issue! Putin has been not only a political leader but a religious one as well. This is seen in the resurgence of the Orthodox Church’s presence and impact on the nation. They have been one of the few vocal nations to resist another cultural revolution having a big impact in America. Alongside this ideological revolution, but not necessarily as a result of it, comes the military pressure on neighboring states to “come back to Russia.” In fact, Putin is using the same excuse that Hitler used when he sought to obtain both Austria and Poland. Flying groups of planes in military maneuvers over neighboring states is highly destabilizing to the world. We stand, as many have said, on the brink of what may be a Third World War.

This brings us to the moral (and ideological) revolution seen most recently in the acceptance of Same Sex marriage as a constitutional right. This pronunciation comes as the result of accepting homosexuality as a civil right. Because it is a persons inherent right to be homosexual, they have all the “rights” according to their sexual proclivity that a race or sex is given. This ideological revolution has lead invariably to persecution of Christians in a country were their first right granted to a people is religious freedom. No longer can Christians operate based on their own morality in the public sphere. This is leading toward physical persecution. Not only has this caused strife here in America, but it has had political results as well. Foreign policy is often being under the direct influence of the homosexual revolution. Whether or not a country is “pro-Gay” or “anti-gay” will determine whether we assist them.

Lastly, the technological revolution has been affecting every aspect of life and every revolution. ISIS has an entire section dedicated towards social media and military propaganda. Putin has been very affective in fueling a “macho-man” image amongst his people and a need to go back to the glory days of Russia on the world stage. The homosexual revolution has been directly impacted by the support of media and Hollywood in promoting their agenda.

We live in a world of much turmoil and revolution, which harks back to an earlier day where much the same thing was happening. This takes us to the year 1802. Europe, and Britain was still reeling from the Seven Years War, which had devastated Europe and made them very war weary. More recently The United States had been in existence as a country for almost three decades having gone to war with Britain. Imagine the political atmosphere in a country that had recently seen that happen! Not only had they watched their own colonies secede, but they were watching the terror in France after the rise of the Jacobins during the French Revolution in what is now known as the “Reign of Terror.” And most recently, Napoleon Bonaparde led a successful Coup taking full control of the government. He returned power and prestige back to the Catholic church which had undergone great persecution at the hands of the Jacobins. But here was a great military leader heading up a “peoples army” which had never been seen before and would greatly affect his dominance in Europe.

This revolution had an even greater impact on Europe than did the American Revolution. So much so that the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I began extending more rights to their citizens as a reaction to it. Earlier in the 18th century Peter the Third had virtually demolished serfdom, which was slavery under the Feudal system.

It is easy to say that on the dawn of this new century it was the era of revolution. This revolution was greatly influenced by the technology of the day much as it is in today’s world. The printing press had only grown in popularity since the 1600’s so that by the 19th century it was an integral part of how society operated. Just breaking onto the scene was the locomotive promising a greater form of transportation of goods and ideas. In fact, railways had begun to appear in Great Britian.

It is in this context that a young poet who has witnessed the revolution, both ideologically and politically, in France returns to his home in England; William Wordsworth. Great momentous things were happening in France and on returning Wordsworth wrote “London, 1802.” England, however, was mired in controversy and war having lost much prominence on the world stage as a result of the American Revolution. Many point to this poem as an example of his conservatism and nationalism coming through. While it can be argued that there is a revolutionary edge to what he is saying, his complaints are moral rather than political.

England was behind the times culturally and morally. In this poem William Wordsworth, with great affection for his country and people, cries out for a return to what once was. “Altar, Sword, and Pen” have been affected by decline. In other words where has our religion, military might, and culture gone? Where has chivalry gone to? Where is our virtue? All these things the poet laments as having been lost in England and he turns to the one whom he thinks most exemplifies them, the great English poet John Milton. As with many of the Romantic Poets Wordsworth values his poetic appeal but more so praises his religious zeal and his ability to affect his countrymen. In a day where William Wordsworth witnesses great moral decline he calls out to a poet, instead of a revolutionary or military commander. This is an interesting notion, but one which is easier to understand now. While commanders affect the worlds battlefields, and while politicians affect the worlds politics, it is a poet who is most able to affect both mind and heart through great words of passion and zeal. It is the poet that speaks through ideas, which in the case of the French Revolution, was seen to have great impact worldwide.

I have spent many words setting the context for this poem because I think that we may benefit greatly by understanding it was written in a time much like our own. A time of great political and moral upheaval, and maybe we will in turn call for a great poet to arise to influence the shifting sands of religion, war, and culture.

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;

Oh! raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

So didst thou travel on life’s common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay.


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