REAL Research Collective finds a new Wordsworth manuscript

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Members of the REAL Research Collective (RRC), whilst on a recent study visit to Dove Cottage in Grasmere (UK), stumbled on a previously unseen Wordsworth manuscript that is a revision to his influential poem: The Tables Turned.

As you will no doubt know, the REAL Research Collective's purpose is to "explore the REAL in its material, symbolic, phenomenological, discursive, magic, religious, and embodied presence in the world", and it is particularly interested in questions such as:

"How do non-human actants (including animals, plant, soil, land as well as machines and tools) form specific practices ...?"

Imagine their surprise and delight, therefore, to discover, in the Dove Cottage lavatories, in a dusty box labelled "Material Stuff", this later version of The Tables Turned, where it turns out that "tables" refer to actual (ie, REAL) tables, and "turned" is a clear reference to lathes.

Although Wordsworth was too scrupulous with language ever to use a phrase like "non-human actant", it is now clear that he changed his mind about the focus of this poem in order to bring in an emphasis on learning from the industrial world, rather than from "nature" which the original poem promoted.

Wordsworth scholars across the world are reported to be "gob-smacked" by the discovery, variously describing it as "spiffing" and "groovy".  Here is the revised verse in full:

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 foundry's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the factory site has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the steam hammer hit,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the anvil rings!
It, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let forges be your teacher.

They have a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by stealth,
Truth breathed by resourcefulness.

One impulse from a charcoal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore machinery 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.

As the REAL Research Collective was quick to realise, this is much more evocative of time and place than Wordsworth's usual pathetic, pastoral ramblings.  As such, the core Collective team have decided to learn the poem by heart so that whenever on a couch they lie, in vacant or in pensive mood, it will flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude, and then their hearts with pleasure will fill, and dance with every satanic mill.

The REAL Research Collective's next study visit will be to the public toilets in Stratford upon Avon.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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