On this Day:
On April 15, 1802 William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy see a “long belt” of daffodils, inspiring the former to pen “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”.
In 1802 William Wordsworth and his sister took a casual stroll where they came across a beautiful field of daffodils. At the time the two siblings dwelled in the scenic Lake District (United Kingdom).
The poem’s roots can be traced back to Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal from the day of their walk. The two were walking along Glencoyne Bay when they stumbled across beautiful daffodils along the bay. As the sister recalls in her journal, “the daffodils seemed immensely beautiful from a far-off view. It was indeed a magnificent sight.”
The poem was composed within the time 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. William Wordsworth, himself, is hailed as the champion of the Romantic Movement in the early 19th century.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
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 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.
The poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ or ‘Daffodils,’ is famous for its simplicity, sing-song-like rhythm, and thematic beauty. It talks about a simple thing: the dancing of the daffodils in a calm breeze. But, the representation is thought-provoking. Readers from all age groups can understand the poem easily and comprehend it in their way. That’s why it is considered one of the best-loved poems of English literature.
‘Daffodils’ is a thoughtful meditative on those beautiful golden flowers. It contains a calm, soothing, and pleasant representation of mother nature that inspires the poet. The memory associated with the daffodils becomes a source of energy while the poet reflects on something or he is pensive. For such a presentation of nature, it is a beautiful example of a romantic poem.
Through this poem, Wordsworth conveys a vital message that includes how nature can be of the most incredible resort when one is feeling low or pensive. It is a source of great energy that can rejuvenate the soul.
Throughout ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ Wordsworth engages with themes of nature, memory, and spirituality. These three are tied together as the speaker, Wordsworth himself, moves through a beautiful landscape. He takes pleasure in the sight of the daffodils and revives his spirit in nature. At the same time, Wordsworth explores the theme of memory, as he does in other works such as ‘Tintern Abbey.’ The flowers are there to comfort him in real-time and as a memory from the past.
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 daffodils act 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.
The tone of this poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, is emotive, hyperbolic, expressive, and thoughtful. In the first stanza, the speaker’s tone helps readers understand how he felt after seeing the daffodils on a specific event. As the poem progresses, Wordsworth intensifies it. Thus it appears hyperbolic. In the last stanza, he chooses a thoughtful tone for describing the impact of the scene on his mind. The tone also follows the mood of the poem. Throughout the text, the poet maintains a calm and joyous mood. It is like the breeze that made the daffodils dance on that day. While going through the poem, readers can feel this relaxing mood.
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. This may be due to the conflict In Wordsworth’s life and his battle with depression.
William Wordsworth’s Biography
Who Was William Wordsworth?
Poet William Wordsworth worked with Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Lyrical Ballads (1798). The collection, which contained Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” introduced Romanticism to English poetry. Wordsworth also showed his affinity for nature with the famous poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” He became England’s poet laureate in 1843, a role he held until his death in 1850.
Poet William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770, in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. Wordsworth’s mother died when he was 7, and he was an orphan at 13. Despite these losses, he did well at Hawkshead Grammar School — where he wrote his first poetry — and went on to study at Cambridge University. He did not excel there, but managed to graduate in 1791.
Wordsworth had visited France in 1790 — in the midst of the French Revolution — and was a supporter of the new government’s republican ideals. On a return trip to France the next year, he fell in love with Annette Vallon, who became pregnant. However, the declaration of war between England and France in 1793 separated the two. Left adrift and without income in England, Wordsworth was influenced by radicals such as William Godwin.
In 1795, Wordsworth received an inheritance that allowed him to live with his sister, Dorothy. That same year, Wordsworth met Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The two became friends, and together worked on Lyrical Ballads (1798). The volume contained poems such as Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” and helped Romanticism take hold in English poetry.
The same year that Lyrical Ballads was published, Wordsworth began writing The Prelude, an epic autobiographical poem that he would revise throughout his life (it was published posthumously in 1850). While working on The Prelude, Wordsworth produced other poetry, such as “Lucy.” He also wrote a preface for the second edition of Lyrical Ballads; it described his poetry as being inspired by powerful emotions and would come to be seen as a declaration of Romantic principles.
In 1802, a temporary lull in fighting between England and France meant that Wordsworth was able to see Vallon and their daughter, Caroline. After returning to England, he wed Mary Hutchinson, who gave birth to the first of their five children in 1803. Wordsworth was also still writing poetry, including the famous “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” These pieces were published in another Wordsworth collection, Poems, in Two Volumes (1807).
Evolving Poetry and Philosophy
As he grew older, Wordsworth began to reject radicalism. In 1813, he was named as a distributor of stamps and moved his family to a new home in the Lake District. By 1818, Wordsworth was an ardent supporter of the conservative Tories.
Though Wordsworth continued to produce poetry — including moving work that mourned the deaths of two of his children in 1812 — he had reached a zenith of creativity between 1798 and 1808. It was this early work that cemented his reputation as an acclaimed literary figure.
First, a Story:
Woman Goes To Buy A Parrot.
I don’t think I can afford that” the woman answers
“OK, no problem. For $100 this parrot is incredible. It was raised in the home of Sir Andrew Motion, it knows the complete works of Eliot, Wordsworth and Whitman and will recite their poems on command.”
“That’s incredible, but I can’t afford that one either”
“OK, OK, I see you want a slightly more budget option. This next parrot is only $50. He’s wonderful. He used to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s parrot, and he knows all the show tunes. He whistles any show tune you like, on command.”
“Wow, that’s great. It’s still too expensive though. What can I get for $5?”
The shopkeeper looks at her, and with a shrug goes into the back room and brings out another parrot. It’s beautiful, the colours are far more radiant than the other three, it stands proud in its cage, a truly majestic looking bird.
“What a beautiful parrot! Why is it only $5?”
“It was raised reading jokes and repeats the same three jokes 100 times a day”
Second, a Song:
This video tells the story of how William Wordsworth’s poem ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’ was composed.
It was written in 1804, two years after William Wordsworth saw the daffodils while walking by the shores of Ullswater on a stormy day with Dorothy, his sister. Wordsworth’s inspiration for the poem came from an account written by Dorothy in her journal. It is cited as the most famous poem in the English language. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” ― William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky