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 dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is the speaker (presumably Wordsworth) talking about the beauty and innocence of nature, and about how good it is for the soul (even in remembrance). Wordsworth was considered to be one of the fathers of Romantic poetry, and he proves his prowess with this poem. Wordsworth speaks of himself almost like he is floating above or apart from the world. He is an inanimate object; an observer, and nature is almost like a person. Vales and Hills and Daffodils are set apart with capitalization as if they were a proper noun – a person’s name. The Daffodils specifically are like people in that they are a crowd and they dance. Daffodils tend to symbolize new beginnings, which makes me think that Wordsworth sees nature as the cure for what ails society. If allowed, nature can bring about a re-birth for a lost generation (the audience I see for this poem). He speaks of how even reflecting on nature (the Daffodils) makes his heart soar. In fact, the whole last stanza leads me to believe that Wordsworth has only discovered it’s value in retrospect.
The poem was written in iambic tetrameter, which lends an almost march-like quality to it. Because of this, the lyrical nature of the words almost seem in contrast to the flow. I wonder if Wordsworth did this in order to further show contrast between the beauty of nature and the military mechanics of the industrial revolution? His choice of the word host in the first stanza seems to corroborate this, as host can refer to a military group or formation. The pattern of the end rhymes also add interest to the poem with their ABABCC structure. I believe that the last two lines of each stanza are meant to tie the message together in a less militaristic style. If read together, they simply say:
Along the Lake, beneath the trees, (5)
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze (6)
I gaz’d–and gaz’d–but little thought (11)
What wealth the shew to me had brought: (12)
And then my heart with pleasure fills, (17)
And dances with the Daffodils. (18)
It sounds less like a march, and more like the lyrics to a song.
As with any literature, poems leave the burden of interpretation to the reader. There is no one answer that satisfies everyone. The Romantic Poets were speaking to a generation using words they could understand. They took these simple words and wrote poems that inspired societal change. Like his contemporaries; John Keats and Lord Byron, Wordsworth displayed a respect for nature and a longing for a simpler time. Did you find this to be the strongest connection between the three poets as well?