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:
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 poem consists of 4 verses of 6 lines each.
The rhyme scheme is a b a b c c.
The rhyme of glee and company is imperfect.
The language is straight-forward except for the use of oft, which is the poetic form of often.
The main semantic field refers to nature: cloud (line 1), vales, hills (line 2), daffodils (lines 4, 24) lake, trees (line 5), breeze (line 6), stars (line 7), milky way (line 8), bay (line 10), and waves (lines 13, 14).
Another semantic field is solitude: lonely (line 1), solitude (line 22) and we are told that the poet lies “in vacant or in pensive mood”.
This solitude, however, has a positive value, for the poet “could not but be gay” and his “heart with pleasure fills”.
In addition, he speaks about “the bliss of solitude”.
The first impression that we get on reading the poem is that the poet is describing the sight of a field full of daffodils.
However, we notice that in the first three verses the verbs are in the past tense – wandered (line 1), saw (lines 3, 11), stretched (line 9), danced (line 8), outdid (line 14), could not (line 15), gazed (line 17), thought (line 17), brought (line 18), while those in the final verse are in the present – lie (line 19), flash (line 21), fills (line 23), dances (line 24).
So we realize that he did not write the poem while he was admiring the flowers but later, when he recalled the scene and reflected on it.
Therefore, this poem illustrates how poetic creation took place and the change from the past to the present tense shows that experience is not lost but can be recalled later.
The voice on the poem is the poet’s and he uses a simile “wandered lonely as a cloud” to underline his solitude and detachment from the world around him.
This detachment is further emphasized by the fact that the cloud “floats on high”.
“All at once” indicates a sudden change in the poet’s attitude, for he is astonished to see so many daffodils, that assume in his mind the form of “a crowd” and “a host”.
Their “golden” colour makes their effect all the more intense.
The choice of the words “crowd” and “host” personifies the flowers and the personification is reinforced by the use of the verb “dance”, which is a human action, and then by the phrase “Tossing their heads” and by calling them a “jocund company”.
He uses several literary devices to attract the reader’s attention to the great number of daffodils: he indicates their extension with the simile “continuous as the stars that shine” and with two hyperboles: they are in a “never – ending line” and “ten thousand saw I at a glance”.
The inversion of the normal word order, accepted as poetic license, in the latter phrase also makes it more emphatic.
Although Wordsworth based these lines on his own experience, he wants to extend it to others; when he says “a poet could not but be gay”, he specifies “a poet” for only a poet possesses such sensibility.
The sight of the daffodils has brought him joy, for only a poet can feel creative joy when he finds himself in such a situation.
The Romantic poets believed that urbanization and industrialization alienated man, who could only find peace in nature which cannot be alienated for it is governed by natural laws: the stars are arranged in the Milky Way, the daffodils grow by the lake.
The breeze that is blowing over the lake is the natural equivalent of the joy that passes through the poet’s mind when he witnesses such a scene.
The waves dance too but the daffodils dance with “glee”, a word often used by Wordsworth to describe the joy of creative inspiration.