Poem – The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth | Summary and Analysis


The poem The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth reflects the poet’s strong belief that nature rather than books is the best teacher.  William Wordsworth’s poems are synonymous with the Romantic Era where nature was given reverential importance.  The poem The Tables Turned is similar to the poem Expostulation and Reply.  It passionately reiterates that students can attain knowledge only in the lap of nature.   In fact, in the poem “The Tables Turned,” the tables are in fact turned as it is William who asks his friend to leave his books and study in the midst of nature instead of his friend asking him why he is wasting his time outside instead of concentrating on his studies and reading books.

Do students spend enough time in the midst of nature?  Are they pushed to spend more time in front of books, and now increasingly, computers, laptops and tablets?  Does bookish learning occupy the majority of the study time of students?  Are students disconnected from the natural environment?   What do you think true learning and education is?

Poem – The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth | Summary and Analysis

Read and reflect on the following lines:

“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 poet notices that his friend is straining and studying and asks him to stop slogging over books.  He warns him that he might grow obese if he coops himself in a room studying.  Does this remind you of the stress and strain that students in India are put through in order to achieve grades and do well in competitive exams?  Do you think we should continue with the status quo in education?

The poet then points out that the student is missing out on the wonderful scenery outside with sunshine bathing the mountains decked with lush green fields.  Nowadays, even the natural environment is being pushed to the fringes.  Children and students are being robbed of natural surroundings.  In such a scenario, it is important to ensure that children and students do visit natural environments and are also guided to be sensitive to natural environments.   Activities like gardening and visiting neighborhood parks should also form an important aspect of their educational years.

The poet then points out that studying books brings in drudgery.  William Wordsworth, who respects nature, asks his friend to listen to the sweet songs of birds which can bring in more wisdom than any number of books.

Now, read the following lines which reflect William Wordsworth’s deep sense of connection with nature.

“She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless-

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by cheerfulness.”

William Wordsworth in these lines strongly reiterates that nature brings about wisdom which keeps us healthy and cheerful.  Do you feel that a student’s health and even innate joy is compromised in the rat race kind of learning with competitive exams and the race for top grades?   Nature can have a soothing effect on students and help them think and act with sensitivity and depth.

William Wordsworth also says that spending time in the midst of nature can also teach students more about humanity, goodness as well as evil, than mere bookish learning.

The last eight lines of this passionate poem are as follows:

“Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;

Our meddling instinct

Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things-

We murder to dissect”

“Enough of Science and Art;

Close up those barren leaves;

Come forth, and bring with you a heart

That watches and receives.”

The sweetness of nature and the knowledge it brings, according to the poet, has been distorted by the way human beings try to cruelly dissect it.  William Wordsworth ends the poem by asking his friend to close his books and stop studying science and art and instead learn from nature in a sensitive and open-hearted manner.

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