Explain "The Tables Turned" by William Wordsworth.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This particular poem discusses Wordsworth's belief that true understanding and knowledge does not exist in the cloistered worlds of academic learning and and books.  Rather, if one is searching for a sense of "truth" and wisdom, it can be found in the natural world and on one's own.  This picks up a major theme of Romanticism, that nature and introspection can be better teachers than academic exercises, in stark contrast to the preceding NeoClassicist beliefs.

The surface meaning of the poem is the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, speaking to a student immersed in traditional book study.  The speaker is imploring the speaker to break free from this traditional and standardized approach to learning and studying and examine the natural world of beauty and individual expression, as opposed to "Science and Art", which he deems as formulaic and cold.  (You can find plenty of lines in the poem that support this.)  The symbolic meaning of the poem is to galvanize the subject and the audience to embrace a non- conformist view of how to approach true understanding and accept a naturalist and liberating view of education.  Wordsworth believes more harm than good is done when our education is steeped in "Books", which he calls a "dull and endless strife."  Rather, human beings can gain more from embracing a natural and almost rural approach to understanding.

With these ideas, I would suggest going back to the poem and finding lines that help substantiate such an explanation.  Pay particular attention to stanzas 1-4 and the closing stanzas.

ghoti | Student

i know that the general meaning is that the tomantic pwrtier such wordsworth said that nature is the source of all thing while knowledge is reflected

he didn't mean to quit reading books but he said read books with observing nature

he means

the first handed is nature

and the second handed is books


this is a very small general explaining to this great poem