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The Tables Turned, An Evening Scene on the Same Subject by William Wordsworth

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

In this special episode I quote several passages from William Wordsworth's prefaces to the Lyrical Ballads and passages from C. Bradley Thompson's newest book "America's Revolutionary Mind."

My argument is that Wordsworth, in telling people to put away their books and look to Nature is reflecting a philosophical view from Isaac Newton and John Locke.

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.

There are times when we should put away our books. More importantly, there are dangers to only look in books for answers and not thinking for ourselves. Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads and elsewhere is desperately trying to get people to look at the reality of human nature and the greater Nature that man inhabits.

This is a lesson we need now more than ever, as we are turning our backs on Man, Nature and the Right morality for living on this earth.


The Tables Turned;

An Evening Scene, on the Same Subject.

By William Wordsworth


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 sun above the mountain’s head,

A freshening lustre mellow,

Through all the long green fields has spread,

His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife,

Come, hear the woodland linnet,

How sweet his music; on my life

There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark ! how blithe the throstle sings !

And he is no mean preacher ;

Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,

Our minds and hearts to bless—

Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,

Truth breathed by chearfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood

May teach you more of man ;

Of moral evil and of good,

Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which nature brings;

Our meddling intellect

Mishapes the beauteous forms of things ;

—We murder to dissect.[1]

Enough of science and of art;

Close up these barren leaves ;

Come forth, and bring with you a heart

That watches and receives.


1798 preface

“...but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favorable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.”


1802 preface:

“...The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these Poems was to chuse incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and, consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings; and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.


From America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration that Defined It, by C. Bradley Thompson

From page 15:

“All inanimate entities and animate beings were subject to the same mechanical laws of nature—laws that could be understood and expressed mathematically.”

From page 23:

Man’s natural condition is defined by two primary qualities. In the natural state, man’s condition is first described as one of “perfect freedom” to order [his] actions, and dispose of [his] possessions and persons, as [he] think[s] fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man. The second fundamental quality of man’s natural condition is that of equality, “wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another: there being nothing more evidence, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should by any manifest declaration of all his will, set one above another.”



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