The poem The Tables Turned (p. 101) seemed to really catch my eye while reading Lyrical Ballads. I would like to share a couple ideas that I had about it
So… here goes nothin’.
The Tables Turned begins with the stanza:
‘Up! Up! My friend, and clear your looks,
Why all this toil and trouble?
Up! Up! My friend, and quit your books,
Or surely you’ll grow double.’
The first words of the poem ‘Up! Up! My friend’ seem to directly allude to the poem Expostulation and Reply where the speaker’s friend Matthew disapproves of his daydreaming. Matthew says “‘Up! Up! And drink the spirit breath’d”’. Since the words ‘Up! Up!’ are repeated twice in The Tables Turned it appears that Wordsworth is mocking Matthew.
In the poem Expostulation and Reply Matthew suggests that Wordsworth should stop daydreaming and pick up a book. In response Wordsworth says “Up! Up! My friend, and quit your books”. Throughout this poem Wordsworth appears to suggest that all wisdom can be acquired by nature, and books are a ‘dull and endless strife’. Interestingly, in this first stanza Wordsworth seems to be alluding to the witches from Macbeth. The words ‘toil and trouble’ and the rhymed ‘double’ closely resemble the line ‘Double, double, toil and trouble’ from Macbeth. So… ‘quit your books’ but here’s a line from Macbeth. I guess Macbeth is a play, so that’s ok right?!
Or… he could just be alluding to Team Rocket (‘Prepare for trouble, make it double’)… but I think he might predate that by a few years
Skipping on to the 2ond to last stanza:
‘Sweet is the lore which nature brings,
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things,
– We murder to dissect.’
I find this stanza interesting because ‘our meddling intellect’ is literally misshaping the stanza. The line ‘— We murder to dissect’ changes the pace and rhythm of the poem (at least when I read it). I also like the idea that we destroy (misshape) things to get knowledge…. And that knowledge can misshape the way we see the world.
‘Enough of science and of art;
Close up these barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.’
First of all, it seems very ironic that Wordsworth would say ‘enough of science and of art’ in a poem, and speak ill of books in a book of poems… Another thing I find interesting about this stanza is that Wordsworth used natural imagery to describe science and art. This seems to reinforce that nature holds all knowledge, even if the leaves are ‘barren’. The 3rd and 4th line of the stanza suggest that knowledge has become impersonal, ‘bring with you a heart’; another cool, sappy idea.