I admit that I’ve already studied this poem, but it’s always good to re-visit old classics and rediscover what new things there are in it.
I also wanted to add a little commentary of my own, because I’ve always had a strong opinion about Wordsworth. In school when I was studying poetry, I often imagined Wordsworth a young man with flowing golden hair and crisp, white Victorian suits (perhaps even a carnation in the button hole). A man with an open, wholesome face and vacant blue eyes even though I’ve never seen a picture of him. I imagine this just from the description of his work and his life and the voice that he put forward in some of his essays that we read. He was presented as a contemporary of Coleridge who, it was suggested, was a companion to Wordsworth and in that order (Wordsworth was never said to be companion to Coleridge). My mental picture for Coleridge was of a thin, sickly pale, dark haired man with big sad eyes and somewhat stoop-shouldered – and, no, never seen a picture of him either. But I always imagined Coleridge to be the secret genius behind the pair working away in his little room, in his little world (his Xanadu) while Wordsworth was out travelling the country side impressing the horde of admiring ladies with his small sketches of poetry.
I suppose my vision of Wordsworth is unfair – though it impressed on me that when I read the poems of the two Coleridge was far superior in detail and imagination. The two often wrote the same poems (both somehow simultaneously wrote “the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”) and neither took credit for who came up with the idea for the poem first (though the vacuum of it in my mind suggests that it was Coleridge – I think Wordsworth would have taken the credit).
I suppose also I took to heart a professor’s remark about how today’s featured poem doesn’t really make any sense i.e. how is a cloud lonely? Daffodils can twinkle?? But I always felt that Wordsworth’s poems though beautiful and transforming of the every day object into something heightened and beautiful were still somewhat vacant. This poem in particular is just about how beautiful daffodils are and when he’s in a bad mood, isn’t it nice to just think of daffodils and feel better. I suppose, but there are some life situations that a memory of daffodils will soften but not make any better (the death of a friend or a family member, discovery that you have a deadly disease, poverty, crime, war, hunger). It must’ve been nice to have been young, handsome and well provided for.
I think to sum up if Wordsworth was the sun shining his bright personality on all who were drawn to him then Coleridge was the moon basking in Wordsworth’s light and hoping that he could absorb some himself. And if it makes any difference, I always preferred the moon; it’s dark and thoughtful solemnity always inspires my respect.
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 – 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 thing I love about this poem is the image it inspires – a bright array of daffodils on a hill by a lake. It made me want to visit the Lakes District though I doubt today it is as natural as once described.
In my textbook – Introduction to Poetry – nothing about the story of Wordsworth’s writing of this poem surprises me. They mention that he wasn’t actually viewing the daffodils alone (so lonely as a sky full of clouds, I guess) as his sister also wrote in her journal about their viewing the field of daffodils – though her description was of fewer flowers than a field of stars, “there was here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers a few yards higher up…” She wrote. She describes them quite poetically “some rest their heads upo these stones as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they veryily laughed with the wind, that flew upon them over the Lake…” It is suggested that Wordsworth might have borrowed a bit from his sister (never!) and that his wife (who probably also was accompanying them) helped him write the last two lines – still it is a beautiful poem that paint a lovely image for the mind. It is a reminder that when a person is having a rough day, sometimes putting aside troubled thoughts and gazing at the beauty of nature (even in the middle of the winter where the leafless, black-twigged trees don glamorous white green, mossy coats) can help ease the burden.