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I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', written in 1804, is perhaps William Wordsworth's (1770-1850) most famous poem, published in his 1807 collection Poems, in Two Volumes. Its lasting popularity has established Wordsworth's place as a highly influential and memorable English poet, both of his generation and throughout history.

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I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

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'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', written in 1804, is perhaps William Wordsworth's (1770-1850) most famous poem, published in his 1807 collection Poems, in Two Volumes. Its lasting popularity has established Wordsworth's place as a highly influential and memorable English poet, both of his generation and throughout history.

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud': poem

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, 5

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: 10

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, 15

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, 20

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud': meaning

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, Daffodils in a field, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Daffodils are an iconic image in the poem.


'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', sometimes known simply as 'Daffodils', is known to many as Wordsworth's defining work. In many ways, it is considered the quintessential example of the English Romantic poem, expressing many of the key themes of the movement.

Romanticism was an artistic movement that lasted from the late 18th to mid-19th century, which favoured the presentation of individualism, freedom, imagination and connection to nature. Famous romantic poets include Wordsworth and his contemporaries, including Keats, Shelley, Blake and Byron.

The poem primarily serves as a mediation on the relationship between the individual and nature, showing a great appreciation for the beauty and purity of the natural world.

Though the speaker feels somewhat detached from the scene, the poetic lyric underscores the profound, almost religious, connection between humanity and nature.

The poem takes inspiration from a walk Wordsworth shared with his sister, Dorothy, in the Lake District on 15 April 1802, during which they encountered these 'daffodils'. In the poem, however, the speaker, likely Wordsworth himself, appears alone, solitarily wandering the landscape, appearing as an observer of the natural world, watching from above like a 'cloud'.

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud': analysis

There is much to consider about the poem and many things we can analyse, particularly how Wordsworth uses language.

Figures of speech

Wordsworth's use of figures of speech is an important literary feature of 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.'

Figures of speech are words or phrases used in a non-literal sense to create a rhetorical effect. In literature, they function as literary devices due to the way language is manipulated to create various poetic effects.

Wordsworth uses various kinds of figures of speech to different effects throughout the poem, including alliteration, personification, and metaphor.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a key technique used in the poem.

Alliteration is the repetition of a letter or sound in a series of words in succession to create an audible, lyrical effect. The repetition of consonants is known as consonance and of vowels assonance.

In 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', there are various moments of alliteration that work to different effects.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills

(lines 1-2)

In the poem's opening lines, and throughout the first stanza, there is a repetition of the 'l' sound. This immediately creates a lulling effect, inducing the reader into a dream-like state where they are invited by Wordsworth to 'float' above the scene.

This repetition also creates a feeling of weightlessness that is not bound to the earth; instead, the speaker is allowed the freedom to roam where the wind might take him. There seems to be an absence of restriction in the natural world where one is free to drift as they please, perhaps in contrast to the limitations of the urban city.

There is also alliteration in the 'h' sounds in 'high' and 'hills', creating a sense of lightness and weightlessness that a cloud might have. This underscores the great altitude at which the speaker is operating and the majesty of natural features.

Personification

Another important figure of speech used is personification.

Personification is a literary device which attributes human characteristics or attributes to non-human subjects.

Perhaps the most memorable instance of personification in the poem is the image of the daffodils:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

(lines 11-12)

The daffodils are joyous in their movements, engaged in a 'sprightly dance', a very human-like image that feels fitting to the scene. This is a repeated image- the reader is reminded of the first stanza, in which they are 'dancing in the breeze' (l. 6).

The harmony of nature is underscored in a bright, uplifting image in which the flowers move with a purposeful rhythm that expresses peace and happiness. The symmetry and interconnectedness of nature is made clear as the daffodils mirror the 'waves' that 'beside them danced' too.

The 'golden daffodils' (l. 4), transcend the overall beauty of the scene: they 'out-did the sparkling waves in glee' (l. 14). There is no sense of competition in the natural world; instead, it is replaced with communication to ensure lasting peace in this realm. The 'breeze' encourages the daffodils, helping them to 'dance'; all aspects of nature co-operate, working as a whole, to elevate the majesty of the scene.

The daffodils are further personified by Wordsworth, as he describes them as 'jocund company' (l. 16). As a 'poet' (l. 15), he feels uplifted and inspired by his companion, underscoring the innate connection between the individual and nature.

Metaphor

The poem is highly metaphorical.

Metaphor is the literary technique in which a figure of speech is applied to a subject in a non-literal sense.

We can consider the last stanza as an example:

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.

(lines 19-24)

The poem's closing stanza acts as an extended metaphor, where the image of the 'inward eye' represents memory.

Wordsworth's vivid imagery highlights how the lasting beauty of the daffodils remains with him even years after. Still, it retains the same power of buoyancy that can lift him from whatever 'vacant or [...] pensive mood' he might be in.

Even when he is beyond the reaches of nature, he is no longer 'lonely' (l. 1) as he might have been at the beginning of the poem; instead, the scene accompanies him throughout his life, accessible through his memory, finding 'the bliss of solitude'. With the image of the daffodils in his mind's eye, he can enjoy isolation, allowing him to find 'pleasure' and peace in his deep connection to the natural world, free to 'dance' alongside them to his 'heart['s]' content.

Structure and rhyme scheme

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' is written in iambic tetrameter, with an ABABCC rhyme scheme and four 6-line stanzas.

Iambic tetrameter is a poetic meter which has four iambs per line. An iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

The shorter structure, consistent rhyme scheme, and pace, all lend a lyrical, song-like quality to the poem. This enhances the joy and lightheartedness of the poem's literary content, emphasising the harmony and beauty of its depiction of the natural scene at its core.

A feeling of wholeness and satisfaction is achieved by the end of the poem that is mirrored in its form. The rhyming couplets at the end of each stanza conclude in a natural, harmonious way, in which Wordsworth's fulfilment is perceptible, and a joyous balance is created.

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud': themes

'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' explores many themes, and is particularly tied to Romanticism. Let's have a look at some of them below!

The individual and nature

Perhaps the poem's primary theme is the individual's relationship to nature.

This was an important consideration of Romantic poets, particularly Wordsworth, who is sometimes referred to as a nature poet. He considers the inspiration that emanates from the natural world throughout his works, which is especially clear in 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud'.

Nature is viewed, in the poem, as harmonious, radiating joy for all to witness. It serves as the utmost example of purity and beauty, rousing deep feelings of appreciation and poetic inspiration for Wordsworth. The daffodils, the waves, the trees and the lake all stand in a quiet majesty that works together in a great process that invites the individual spirit to join.

The poem is structured to showcase the speaker's journey in understanding the great pleasure in the symbiosis between nature and the individual spirit. The first three stanzas show the observation of the scene, in which the reader is allowed to marvel at nature's bounty, as Wordsworth does himself, whilst the last stanza concludes that the human spirit finds true happiness when surrounded by the natural world.

Memory

In this last concluding stanza, Wordsworth considers the importance of memory.

The metaphor of the 'inward eye' (l. 21) is a vivid image of the process of memory; this clever image is incredibly apt to the act of remembering, in which one's memories exist in the innermost parts of themselves.

Accessing a visual memory, especially one as lasting as the daffodils, is like experiencing it all over again, granting you the time-defying ability to place yourself at the scene once more.

Spirituality

Throughout the poem, Wordsworth feels an almost religious kinship toward nature, viewing it as spiritually fulfilling and inspiring.

Nature is divine: the innate spirituality of the natural world is conveyed in the awe that the speaker feels whilst looking upon the scene of the daffodils.

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

(lines 3-4)

In these lines, Wordsworth personifies the flowers as 'a crowd', conjuring images of a congregation, in which God's creations are joyously celebrated in harmony. Moreover, he also refers to them as 'a host', perhaps invoking the 'Host' used in Holy Communion (the bread used to symbolise the body of Christ).

Spirituality, therefore, can be found in its purest form in the natural world. Wordsworth suggests that true 'bliss' (l.22), spiritual contentment and divine connection is strongest whilst surrounded by nature.

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud - Key takeaways

  • 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' is a poem written by William Wordsworth.
  • The poem was written in 1804, but was published in the 1807 collection Poems, in Two Volumes.
  • The poem's inspiration comes from a walk Wordsworth took with his sister in the Lake District in 1802.
  • The poem is a classic work of Romanticism.
  • Key themes include the individual's relationship to nature, memory and spirituality.

Frequently Asked Questions about I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

The poem, 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', is a mediation upon the beauty of the natural world and the individual's connection to it.

William Wordsworth

the poem was written in 1804, but was published in 1807.

The poem is a simple consideration of the majesty and beauty of a natural scene. Wordsworth encountered this scene whilst on a walk in the Lake District in 1802, and the poem is his attempt to preserve the feelings of fulfilment and inspiration he received from it.

There are various metaphors throughout the poem that enhance the beauty of the scene. The opening line is a simile which compares the speaker's wandering to that of the movement of a 'cloud'.

More about I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

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