“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (also commonly known as “Daffodils” or “The Daffodils”) is a poem by William Wordsworth.
The poem is 24 lines long, consisting of four six-line stanzas. Each stanza is formed by a quatrain, then a couplet, to form a sestet and a ABABCC rhyme scheme. The fourth- and third-last lines were not composed by Wordsworth, but by his wife, Mary. Wordsworth considered them the best lines of the whole poem. Like most works by Wordsworth, it is romantic in nature; the beauty of nature, unkempt by humanity, and a reconciliation of man with his environment, are two of the fundamental principles of the romantic movement within poetry. The poem is littered with emotionally strong words, such as “golden”, “dancing” and “bliss”.
The plot of the poem is simple. Wordsworth believed it “an elementary feeling and simple expression”. The speaker is wandering as if among the clouds, viewing a belt of daffodils, next to a lake whose beauty is overshadowed:
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.
The reversal of usual syntax in phrases, particularly “Ten thousand saw I at a glance” is used as part of foregrounding (for emphasis). Loneliness, it seems, is only a human emotion, unlike the mere solitariness of the cloud. In the second and third verses, the memory of the daffodils is given permanence (particularly through comparison the stars); this is in contrast to the transitory nature of life examined in other works:
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:
In the last stanza, it is revealed that this scene is only a memory of the pensive speaker. This is marked by a change from a narrative past tense to the present tense. as a conclusion to a sense of movement within the poem: passive to active motion; from sadness to blissfulness. The scene of the last verse mirrors the readers’ situation as they take in the poem:
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.
Like the maiden’s song in “The Solitary Reaper,” the memory of the daffodils is etched in the speaker’s mind and soul to be cherished forever. When he’s feeling lonely, dull or depressed, he thinks of the daffodils and cheers up. The full impact of the daffodils’ beauty (symbolizing the beauty of nature) did not strike him at the moment of seeing them, when he stared blankly at them but much later when he sat alone, sad and lonely and remembered them.
Personification is used within the poem, particularly with regards to the flowers themselves, and the whole passage consists of images appearing within the mind of the poet.