In 1798, with the release of their collaborative work Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) launched the Romantic movement. Lyrical Ballads is a collection of
dramatic, lyrical poems written by Wordsworth and inspired by Coleridge, but it also includes Coleridge’s
famous work, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Revolting against the conventional strictness of neoclassicism
and placing artistic emphasis on imagination and emotions, Lyrical Ballads inspired a dramatic shift in English
poetry at the time. Instead of being about romance, Romantic poetry focuses on thought and feeling, and the
creativity of the individual. Inspired by this shift were some of the most famous Romantic poets—George
Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)—who wrote dramatic poems
about the quest for love and social justice.
The following Wordsworth poem is excerpted from Lyrical Ballads. As you read, notice how he uses techniques
in his writing that would come to exemplify the Romantic poets, especially focusing on imagination and emotion.
The Tables Turned
An Evening Scene on the Same Subject
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
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!
He, too, 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 cheerfulness.
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Or moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
— William Wordsworth (1798)