I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

_____________________________

This poem is twenty-four lines broken up into four stanzas of six lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC and the lines are in iambic tetrameter.

Stanza 1:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The poem begins from a first person perspective. The Speaker’s use of “wandered” presents himself as aimless in direction. He is also alone, “lonely as a cloud.” The isolation is contrasted with the upcoming “crowd” of daffodils. Daffodils are typically yellow. Describing them as “golden” imbues them with a more precious status. The daffodils are also personified. The Speaker describes them as “dancing” in the breeze.

Stanza 2:

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

In the second stanza, the Speaker analogizes the number of daffodils to the number of stars in the Milky Way. He uses the exaggeration to demonstrate their number. Lines eleven and twelve in particular focuses on the enormity of their number and it again personifies them with human characteristics. The flowers are still dancing. They even toss their “heads” when doing so.

Stanza 3:

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

The flowers are described as being located near a lake. The Speaker tells us that the waves beside them also “danced” but the flowers out-performed their watery neighbors in glee. The Speaker goes on to say that seeing the display brought him great joy and enrichment.

Stanza 4:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Here, the Speaker tells us that the daffodils are a fond memory. When he is alone – as he was when the poem began- the Speaker again personifies the daffodils as dancers and he dances with them.

This poem is a product of the Romantic period of English literature which spanned the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The most notable feature of the poetry of the time is the new role of individual thought and personal feeling. Where the main trend of 18th-century poetics had been to praise the general, to see the poet as a spokesman of society addressing a cultivated and homogeneous audience and having as his end the conveyance of “truth,” the Romantics found the source of poetry in the particular, unique experience. Blake’s marginal comment on Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses expresses the position with characteristic vehemence: “To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the alone Distinction of Merit.” The poet was seen as an individual distinguished from his fellows by the intensity of his perceptions, taking as his basic subject matter the workings of his own mind. Poetry was regarded as conveying its own truth; sincerity was the criterion by which it was to be judged.

Who is William Wordsworth?

William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798).

Wordsworth’s magnum opus is generally considered to be The Prelude, a semi-autobiographical poem of his early years that he revised and expanded a number of times. It was posthumously titled and published by his wife in the year of his death, before which it was generally known as “the poem to Coleridge”.

Wordsworth was Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death from pleurisy on 23 April 1850.

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