In your own words briefly, say how the ideas in “Expostulation & Reply” & “The Tables Turned” have helped you to understand Romanticism.
Romanticism was a movement that boasted individuality, self-expression and evaluation, and encouraged individuals to connect with imagination and feeling. These facets of Romanticism were a subversion of the Enlightenment; an age of reason, logic, knowledge and fact. This period encouraged an investigation into the human heart, revealing its immense capacity and impressionability. William Wordsworth is an exceptional example of a Romanticist. The aforementioned qualities of Romanticism permeate his oeuvre, particularly in the lyrical poems ‘Expostulation and Reply’ and ‘The Tables Turned.’ Both of which enhance and aid in our under of Romanticism.
Romantics urge the human to connect with nature and be enlightened by the natural. Wordsworth’s narrator urges the same thing within ‘Expostulation and Reply’. Enticed by rhythm, responders are invited to engage in what is only natural: to feel. Wordsworth compares the notion of feeling, to that of the instinct of seeing:
‘The eye – it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
Against or with our will.’ (281)
Wordsworth argues that it in that lack of action, the lack of reading from books, or deliberately engaging in education, that we learn the most. This action, or lake thereof, he terms a ‘wise passiveness’. This passivity allows one to wholly immerse themselves in their surroundings, and in such engagement learns only what nature can teach.
Furthermore, Wordsworth continues his enticement of nature in his 1798 poem ‘The Tables Turned’. Through descriptive language, riddled with sibilance, and further amplified through rhyme, responders are attracted to the melody of nature:
‘The sun, above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow,
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.’(281)
Wordsworth’s employment of the imperative encourages us to ‘Come forth into the light of things. / Let Nature be your Teacher.’ He directly critiques the logic and reason encouraged by the Enlightenment period, and states you can learn more by nature than by man: ‘One impulse from a vernal wood / May teach you more of man’.
Thus, Wordsworth’s work has aided in my understanding of the tenets of Romanticism, encouraging me to engage more in nature, hence, leading a fuller, more in-tuned life.
Romanticism. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017, https://www.britannica.com/art/Romanticism. 15th March, 2017.
Wordsworth, William. “Expostulation and Reply.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. F. New York: Norton, 2012. 280-81.
Wordsworth, William. “The Tables Turned.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. F. New York: Norton, 2012. 281-82.