Defination of the Poem
William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered as Lonely as a Cloud” opens with the
narrator describing his action of walking in a state of worldly detachment; his wandering “As lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o'er vales and hills,” (1-2). What he is thinking of we never really uncover, but his description leaves us to analyze his words as a sort of “head in the clouds” daydream-like state where his thoughts are far away, unconcerned with the immediate circumstances in which he finds himself. Wordsworth, ever the Romanticist, perhaps uses these two introductory lines to describe the disconnected and dispassionate ways that we all live our lives; walking through life in a haze of daily ritual and monotonous distractions in a pointless and spiritually disinterested state where we fail as emotional creatures to appreciate the quiet beauties of life that we as human beings need for spiritual sustenance. William Wordsworth’s “lonely cloud” is our own private impersonal perception of the world, floating miles above it and missing the quiet virtues of nature, beauty, and other sources of emotional nourishment. As William Wordsworth’s narrator is walking, he notices “A host, of golden daffodils;... Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” (4 and 6). Wordsworth goes on to describe these “golden daffodils” as a vast plot of swaying flowers around the fringes of a bay, outdoing the beauty of the ocean’s waves with their own golden oscillation. Describing the daffodils for the next several lines, Wordsworth helps us to visualize what he himself has seen and was so moved by; “Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. / The waves beside them danced; but they / Out-did the sparkling waves in glee” (12-14). These light-hearted daffodils, weaving in unison with each other in the wind, have romantically touched Wordsworth, their natural beauty reaching him in ways that he describes as not fully understanding until later: “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:” (15-18). It is here that your humble writer can not help but remember one of William Wordsworth’s earlier poems that he had written six years earlier. William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written in Early Spring” (1798) serves the reader in much the same way as Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, in that his narrator draws inspiration from nature’s beauty to experience a deep and meaningful emotion within himself as a philosopher and a poet. The great difference, however, between Wordsworth’s “Lines Written in Early Spring” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is that in “Lines Written in Early Spring” natures beauty induces in Wordsworth a deep and powerful mourning for how mankind has perverted his own nature in his then modern society, whereas “Lines Written in Early Spring” invigorates Wordsworth’s narrator with the mental imagery of the daffodils. Most importantly, in both poems Wordsworth describes his narrator as having a moment of quiet introspection. In much the same way that most readers can relate, Wordsworth’s narrator in “Lines Written in Early Spring”, upon having a few moments to think to himself, lapses into a depressed state from his own quiet thoughts: “While in a grove I sate reclined, / In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts / Bring sad thoughts to the mind.” (William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written in Early Spring”, 1798, lines 2-4.). In Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” his narrator reciprocally, upon relaxing on a couch in quiet contemplation, is elated and pleasantly entertained by the thoughts of the daffodils dancing in his memory: “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.” (19-24). Wordsworth’s narrator in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is not grieved by “What man has made of man” (William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written in Early Spring”, 1798, line 8.) but contented and near-tickled by his reminiscence of the golden, light-hearted beauty of the daffodils. A message can be so drawn from this contrast, whether William Wordsworth intended it or not, in a Post-Modern dissection and personal interpretation of a theme that holds as much true to the cannon of Romanticism as to Wordsworth’s own personal philosophy. Perhaps the popular title for Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, “Daffodils”, finds, in itself, the virtue of the poem and its interpretive meaning. The daffodils are, as well as what Wordsworth would have intended, natural beauty; the tranquil occurrences of lucky happenstance that we experience and carry with us in our proverbial hearts as cherished moments and treasured memories. Likely, many readers skimmed Wordsworth’s description of the daffodils and quickly spurned it as a “Romantic blubber” of sorts. Needless to say, however, Wordsworth believes, as does your humble writer, that any human being possessing a soul and beating heart would find themselves deeply touched by the scene of a thousand-fold host of yellow daffodils swaying in the breeze against the backdrop of waves breaking against the rocks of a bay. This mental image, otherwise missed by those caught up in their daily bustle and contemporary distractions, their “wandering lonely as clouds” so to speak, is what we draw from nature and experience when we cease our self-destructive pace. If we slow down, just enough, we may catch by the wayside of our wanderings a spiritual creature that could serve us as a pleasant mental image or perhaps even as a meaning or purpose in life. In William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, the daffodils become much more than mere flowers. They are a symbol of natural beauty and, more importantly, symbolize living a life as rich in experience and sensation as would make a life worth living. They represent, in their light-hearted dance, the joy and happiness of living an adoring and fulfilling life, embracing it for every drop of nectar it could so bring. Romanticism, a poetic philosophy that Wordsworth himself engendered, finds much virtue in this meaning; the daffodils reaching out and catching the eye of Wordsworth’s narrator, or perhaps Wordsworth himself, and inspiring him so much emotionally, that he was left with little choice than to express them poetically. Wordsworth’s narrator of “Lines Written in Early Spring” struggles with his own innate human predisposition towards melancholy in a world where contemporary human society and civilization has destroyed our connection to nature, and incidentally our own nature as well, but Wordsworth’s narrator in “Daffodils” has taken from the moment the sweet nourishment of spiritual manna that was necessary to keep a quiet instance of introspection from turning to depression and, instead, becoming an exuberant reverie of a setting in memory; “They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude; / And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils.” (21-24). William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” or “Daffodils” is a deep and moving work of poetry that under a deceivingly simple exterior could possibly be, under energetic dissection, argued as one of Wordsworth’s greatest works of Romanticism. By staying true to Romanticism’s philosophy of embracing not only nature but the careful expression of the poet’s emotions through art and how nature can so deeply affect it, Wordsworth, in four simple stanzas if imagery, could, perhaps, not better described in verse the Romantic ideology. The popular title for Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, “Daffodils”, has in a single word summed an entire literary philosophy.
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