At the time William Wordsworth wrote the poems "Expostulation and Reply," and "The Tables Turned," there was a mind-set among many of the poets of his time that book learning and the sciences were somehow unnatural and unpoetic. And that by engaging in their practices man as a race was abandoning his spirituality and distancing himself from nature.
The poems are basically a dialogue between two friends, William and Mathew. In "Expostulation and Reply," it is Mathew who finds William sitting alone on a grey stone without his books daydreaming throughout half the day. Stanzas five to eight, "...that light bequeathed to beings else forlorn and blind! Up! Up! And drink the spirit breathed from dead men to their kind." From what I take of it, Mathew is saying that William should be fortunate to have the books written by these dead wise men, for that the poor and blind are unable to.
In stanzas nine through twelve, "You look round on your Mother Earth, as if she for no purpose bore you: as if you were her first-born birth, and none had lived before you!" Mathew speaks on how William seems as if how was put on this earth for no purpose, to do nothing. That William must appreciate the fact that there were others before him who has experienced life and that he should read from them to gain a better understanding and gain their knowledge. At this point William touches upon "wise passiveness," from stanza twenty-four, where we as a whole must allow the influence of nature to act upon us and teach us. That among the many books and the philosophers that in the end we are still left seeking (stanzas twenty-five through twenty-nine).
Now the story continues with the poem "The Tables...