William Wordsworth Questions and Answers

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“Expostulation and Reply” by Wordsworth illustrates a conflict between book learning and experiential knowledge. Which form of learning does the poem support?

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As is always the case with him, Wordsworth in this poem prefers experiential learning over book learning. His friend Matthew comes along and asks him why he is simply sitting on a rock, daydreaming, when he could be reading. Does Wordsworth think, Matthew asks, that he was the first person ever born? Doesn't he feel he should learn from the wisdom dead men have left behind on the pages of books?

Wordsworth responds that he finds great value in contemplating nature and believes he can learn from it, saying that there are "powers"

Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.

As Wordsworth expresses in greater length in his autobiographical poem The Prelude , he was never happy as a university student and always longed for the semester break, when he could return to the Lake District and breathe in nature. He believed that God showed himself in nature and that nature could teach humans a wisdom and offer a solace that book learning could not....

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