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The Tables Turned

In 1798, William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge published a collection of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads; in this volume, the former authored “The Tables Turned,” a poem that exemplified some of the core tenets of the English romantic movement. The poem’s focus is on the importance of nature, and of the importance of taking time to appreciate the natural world that surrounds the individual. The author urges the reader to put aside his “toil and trouble,” to leave his work and his books behind, for fear of aging far too soon. The Tables TurnedHe continues by saying that traditional learning is “dull and endless,” and that nature can provide man with more knowledge than books ever could.

Romanticism has at its core an increasing importance placed on individualism; writings of this time period also glorify the natural world, likely in response to the various problems that emerged as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Comparisons are often made between the corruption and demise of the modern, industrial world and the purity and sanctity of the natural world. Wordsworth achieves this not only by urging the reader to give up the social expectations of a traditional education, but also by personifying Nature, saying that only she can provide true knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, the natural world can teach man all that he needs to know about right and wrong, about what is moral and what is evil. Man is encouraged to take these lessons and to make a life for himself, keeping his mind and heart open to the world around him and all that it can teach.

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