Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
When Wordsworth chose to employ the ballad stanza, he not only broke with the poetic practice of serious English poetry of the past, he also implied that he held new values. If those values were not (at least in this poem) the values of common folk, they were at least quite different from those common to educated persons in the eighteenth century.
Matthew, the representative of older values, has been identified in part with William Taylor, Wordsworth’s boyhood schoolmaster. Wordsworth once said that this and the poem that preceded it “arose out of conversation with a friend” (possibly William Hazlitt) “who was somewhat unreasonably attached to modern books of Moral Philosophy.”
It is precisely the kind of ideas about moral philosophy found in books that Wordsworth attacks in this poem. In the all-important sixth stanza, Wordsworth asserts that when a person is affected by a perception of beauty in the natural world in springtime (“an impulse from a vernal wood”—a bird song), that person is made immediately and intuitively sensitive to what is good and what is evil. This kind of moral intuition is more to be trusted than judgments made on the bases of philosophical systems.
The seventh stanza describes what such systems do. They reject what can be learned from the pleasing (“sweet”) impulses of nature (“the lore which Nature brings”). Instead, these systems encourage the mind (“Our meddling intellect”) to...
(The entire section is 360 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Tables Turned Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!