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W.Wordsworth: The Tables Turned

“The Tables Turned” is another of William Wordsworth’s famous poems that is so typical of the Romantic Era. It is in a way a declaration of Wordsworth’s Romantic manifesto, and it presents a break with the scientific approach of the Enlightenment. Read the poem and do the tasks which follow.

The Tables Turned

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Up! Up! My Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! Up! My Friend and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! On my life,
There’s more wisdom in it.

And hark! How blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless –
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things: -
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

A Closer Look at the Poem

  • Point out some lines that in your opinion reflect the ideas and values of the Romantic period.
  • What would you say is the theme of the poem?
  • How can we say that this poem is a manifesto of the romantic period?
  • Who is the author addressing in the poem?
  • What defines this as a poem (and not prose)?
  • The title is a well known saying. What does it mean that "the tables are turned"?
  • Comment on the line: "Close up those barren leaves".
  • Follow the link below and read more about William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth - A True Romantic

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Literature from 1780 to 1840

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