I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils) Analysis- William Wordsworth

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils)

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) has written some of the finest poems on Nature in the English language. He was one of the pioneers of the early English Romantic Movement in English poetry.The romantic period was the most fruitful period in the history of English literature. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, etc. belong to the first generation and Byron, Shelley, Keats, etc. belong to the second generation of the romantic poets.  Wordsworth was deeply involved in the early enthusiasm of the French Revolution. With Coleridge, he published The Lyrical Ballads in 1798, which marks the beginning of a new trend in English poetry. Wordsworth wrote a preface to the second edition of The Lyrical Ballads in 1800 which is regarded as the literary manifesto of the movement. Wordsworth's great poems include Tintern Abbey, Michael, Ode on Intimations of Immortality, The Prelude, and Ode to Duty besides a large number of short lyrics - notable among them being The Lucy poems, The    Solitary ReaperI Wandered Lonely as a  Cloud (Daffodils) and The Leech Gatherer.


 I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils)

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;
Besides 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-and 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,
The flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils) ―a spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in tranquility.

Outline of the poem

The poem records an anecdote of  Wordsworth's life history when he came upon a bunch of daffodils while walking in Lake District. Daffodils are yellow flowers that are found in plenty in Lake District, a picturesque mountainous region in England. Wordsworth says that Daffodils is not just a poem of simple human sentiments of pleasure and delight on his seeing a bunch of daffodils, but this tender and the delicate poem has much to offer to the reader in terms of "knowledge". By "knowledge", Wordsworth means knowledge of the process of poetic creation. The poem is remarkable for its accuracy of description, and it also offers an account of the way poetry is created. It illustrates the working of Wordsworth imagination as it acts on the picture of the daffodils given by the senses and turns it into a rich, perennial source of joy and inspiration. He can recall these images at times of stress and strain or during periods of loneliness and experience joy and tranquility. Daffodils is yet another instance of the overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils) Analysis

I wandered lonely as a cloud

"cloud" suggests a mood of desolation,  of uncertainty and loneliness. The movements of the cloud with no discernible pattern or direction suggest that the poet is wandering aimlessly.

Contrast this mood of depression with the later mood of "bliss of solitude" described in line.22. The metamorphosis takes place as a result of the poet finding himself in "the jocund company"(line.16) of the daffodils. The poem thus records the progress of the poet from an initial state of loneliness to a state of fellowship with nature which leads him to a state of creative joy in the process of poetic composition.

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils

The poet's mood of indifference is "all at once" broke as his eyes rest upon a "host of golden daffodils". These lines hint at the beginning of the poetic process in Wordsworth. The flowers which to begin with are described as "a crowd" are referred to in the following line as " a host". The term "crowd" is associated with a number of persons or things pressing together without any order. Wordsworth initially sees the flowers as bunched together with no order about them.

But the creative process within him is set in motion as he suddenly discovers a pattern in their midst. The no longer appear as a crowd, but take the form of "a host" ― a term often associated with "a host of angels". The daffodils are no longer simple yellow flowers in wild growth, but they are of a rich golden hue. The poet's creative imagination is already at work as the crowd of yellow flowers is transferred into a host of golden daffodils.

Besides the lake, beneath the trees,

Wordsworth is remarkable for his accuracy in his presentation of details. The daffodils need adequate water and shade for their growth. Hence the poet says that the daffodils are seen in abundance beside the lake and beneath the trees.

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The poet sees the fluttering and dancing movement of the flowers as they are swayed by the breeze that blows across the lake.
 Again in lines 13-14, he says that the waves danced like the flowers but not with "glee". The word "glee" is a significant word in Wordsworth's poems, when he uses it to describe the joy of creative activity. The dance of the daffodils is akin to creative ecstasy.

What sets the flowers and the waves in motion? It is the breeze ― yet another significant word in his poems. "Breeze" in Wordsworth's usage often represents creative inspiration. The breeze that sets in motion the daffodils in gay abandon is equivalent to the poetic breeze that sets in motion the poet's imagination towards creative activity.

Lines (17-24)

The daffodils are linked with the stars that shine and twinkle on "the milky way". By instituting this comparison with the stars, Wordsworth has made the daffodils a part of the universal order. The multitudinous flowers tossing their heads in sprightly dance resemble the bright stars in the Galaxy. Shining, twinkling and dancing, the flowers exude joy and life that lift the lonely heart of Wordsworth into a state of bliss. In such a company, the poet cannot but gay. Where he was lonely at the beginning, he is now in "the jocund company" of the daffodils.

gazed: looked intently, In the case of Wordsworth, it is an act of mind. It is both perception and creation. The poet is not only experiencing immediate pleasure but is storing the experience for the future. But he is not conscious of what he is doing as he gazes at the daffodils.

Later when he is in a pensive and vacant mood, in loneliness and disquietude, he is able to recall these delightful pictures of the daffodils. They flash upon his inward eye ㅡ the eye of imagination ㅡ and give him peace and consolation. As he recollects the past emotions in tranquillity, he is creatively inspired to render these emotions flow through his poetic composition.

Daffodils concretise Wordsworth's romantic belief in poetry as a spontaneous overflow of emotions recollected in tranquility.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils) Poetic Devices

In his preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth presented a set of propositions about the nature and criteria of poetry. Wordsworth defines poetry as "a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" and as "emotion recollected in tranquility". Besides these, he had also commented on Poetic diction and figurative speech. Wordsworth believed that poetry is the instinctive utterance of feeling and passion and so the language of poetry is the language of passion and emotion and therefore, it is natural. In other words, he said that there is no need in poetry to deviate from ordinary language ㅡ(i.e) the language is spoken by men under the stress of genuine feeling. He describes natural language as "the simple and unelaborated expressions of essential passions by men living close to nature". As for the figures of speech employed in poetry, Wordsworth rejected the concept of figures as the ornaments of language. He said that the figures of speech instead of being "supposed ornaments" should be naturally suggested by passion.

Wordsworth's insistence upon language as a primitive utterance of passions is seen in the archaisms in the poem. For example, we have the expression, the "jocund company" (Daffodils) that suggest the impassioned utterances of the poet.

Similies: Wordsworth use of similies in Daffodils is illustrative of his use of figures as suggested by his emotion and feelings. He begins the poem by instituting a comparison between himself and the cloud ㅡ suggestive of his drifting aimlessly in a mood of desolation and despondency. Another comparison is between the daffodils and the stars on the milky way.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
Continuous as the stars that shine.....margin of a bay

Metaphors: the flowers are dancing (dancing, dance, danced, dances) - the word is used in some form in every stanza of the poem. The whole poem, then, is full of movement.

Personification: "Fluttering and dancing in the breeze", "Tossing their heads in sprightly dance". "When all at once I saw a crowd"

Alliterations: "Stars that shine", "Beside the lake, beneath the trees" (Daffodils) "Ten thousand....Tossing".

Hyperbole: "Ten thousand saw I at a glance", "they stretched in never-ending line".

Genre: lyric (a short poem that describes the speaker's emotions)

The four six-line stanzas of this poem follow a quatrain- couplet rhyme scheme: ABABCC. Each line is metered in iambic tetrameter.

                                                 ᴗ   ⸝      ᴗ    ⸝    ᴗ   ⸝ ᴗ     ⸝
I wandered lonely as a cloud (A)
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, (B)
When all at once I saw a crowd, (A)
A host of golden daffodils; (B)
Besides the lake, beneath the trees, (C)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (C

Reference: Understanding Poetry, Indira Gandhi National Open University School of Humanities.

See Also

Short Story 'Misery' by Anton Chekhov

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