By William Wordsworth – 1770-1850
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—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew 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.
About the Poet
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote beautiful poetry filled with sweet imagery, usually based around the natural world. Often Wordsworth’s poems contained slight somber undertones, as is the case in this poem, as we will explore shortly. This is possible due to the conflict In Wordsworth’s life and his battle with depression. Some scholars suggest that Wordsworth’s relationship with his sister, Dorothy was far from platonic. But Wordsworth did marry and lived with both his wife and sister.
Wordsworth lived through the French Revolution, which he initially supported and later rebuked. William Wordsworth, who rallied for “common speech” within poems and argued against the poetic biases of the period, wrote some of the most influential poetry in Western literature, including his most famous work, The Prelude, which is often considered to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. He and his close friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge were the pioneers of the romantic era of poetry, and Wordsworth’s earlier romantic poems were widely derided because of this. He was also the poet laureate for queen Victoria for seven years. Today, Wordsworth’s reputation rests heavily on the collection Lyrical Ballads that he published along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798.
About the Poem
“Daffodils” or “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is one of the best-loved poems of the romantic poetry of William Wordsworth. The poem features how the spontaneous emotions of the poet’s heart sparked by the energetic dance of daffodils help him pen down this sweet little piece. On April 15, 1802, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy came across a host of daffodils around Glencoyne Bay in the Lake District of Northern England. (The falls and surrounding area of Gowbarrow Park is the area of Glencoyne Bay known as Wordsworth Point.) This event was the inspiration behind the composition of Wordsworth’s lyric poem. “Daffodils” has been dissected methodically for illustrating the poet’s mood, the surrounding location, the allegorical meanings, and the beauty of nature in full motion. The poet’s love and proximity with nature have inspired and moved generations after generations of poetry lovers and young minds.
The speaker, likely Wordsworth himself, is wandering down the hills and valley when he stumbled upon a beautiful field of daffodils. Though the poem’s title hints at a cloud, it is not about it. Instead, it is about a group of golden daffodils dancing beside the lake and beneath the trees. The speaker is transfixed by the daffodils seemingly waving, fluttering, and dancing along the waterside. The poet feels immensely gleeful at this mesmerizing natural sight. Amongst the company of flowers, he remains transfixed at those daffodils wavering with full vigor. Oblivious to the poet is the fact that this wondrous scenery of daffodils brings the poet immense joy when he’s in a tense mood or perplexed for that matter. His heart breaths a new life and gives him exponential happiness at sight worth a thousand words.
The poem begins with a symbolic reference to the cloud. It is wandering and lonely. The poetic persona is the embodiment of such a cloud. Hence, it symbolizes being lonely and thoughtless. This state is achieved when one is free from mundane thoughts. The most important symbol of this piece is the daffodils. The narcissistic description of the flower seems to be alluding to the Greek myth. Apart from that, the daffodil acts as a symbol of rejuvenation and pure joy. Wordsworth becomes the means through which the flowers express their vibrance. In his pensive mood, they become a means for the poet’s self-reflection.
Hailed as the champion of the Romantic Movement in the early 19th century, Wordsworth dwelled in scenic Lake District of Northern England, far from the madding crowd. Its roots can be traced back to Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal, in which she reminisces a casual stroll with his brother in 1802, where they came across beautiful daffodils. Dorothy wrote in her journal:
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park, we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road.
I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing.
This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up, but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.
The poem was composed within the period of 1804-1807 and subsequently published in 1807, with a revised version published in 1815. The poem is considered a masterpiece of Romantic Era poetry steeped in natural imagery. As the sister’s journal recalls, the daffodils seemed immensely beautiful from a far-off view.