The Tables Turned Summary
In this poem, the speaker extols the virtues of the learning that happens in nature, outside of books. He addresses his "Friend," perhaps the reader herself, imploring that friend to get up and leave her books behind. He describes the fact that the sun is high above the landscape, painting all the green fields with yellow, as evening nears. Books, on the other hand, are dull and endless, and it is far better to go outside and hear the sweet music of the birds than to read about them. The speaker argues that there is more wisdom in that song than in his friend's books.
The speaker tells his friend to come out "into the light of things" and to let nature be her teacher, for the natural world has "ready wealth" to show them, blessings for their hearts and minds, and wisdom and truth to impart. The speaker claims that the woods can teach us more about good and evil than all sage men could do; further, he claims that our intellectual pursuits are meddling and invasive, misshaping the beauty of the things we seek to understand. "We murder to dissect," he says, suggesting that we kill beauty, wisdom, and truth by attempting to take them apart and study them; we ought to simply go outside and experience the world in order to understand all we need to know of it.
Finally, the speaker proclaims that he and his friend ought to have had enough of this reading—this education by books—and that they must close those books in order to truly experience life. He even refers to the pages of the books as "barren leaves," as though they are simply dead leaves compared to the living ones outside. He instructs his friend to come outside with him and bring a heart that is ready to watch and receive nature's instruction.