I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud
The composition of the poem dates 1807 so it's not part of the lyrical ballads, perhaps it's one of the most famous poems by Wordsworth because it contains the main principles of poetry.
Technically is divided into 4 stanza, the pattern is quite regular and it moves on with an uncomplicated rhythm, like in a ballad or a simple song, most of Wordsworth composition are really musical, it's a quality that he sorts in order to give rhythm and the idea of pleasure in this poetry.
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.
In the first stanza the speaker describes a time when he meandered over the valleys and hills, then he came across a crowd of daffodils stretching out over almost everything he could see.
The poem is open by the pronoun “I” meaning that's is individual and subjective poetry where felling and emotions are the subject matter of the poem. In fact the movement from the romantic period to modern age is a movement towards objectivity and by starting his compositions with the first singular person pronoun Wordsworth clearly define the kind of poetry that we are going to meet.
In the first line he “wonders” and that's significant because the verb wonder means “exploring leisurely with no specific destination”. Most of the characters, protagonist, figures in his poem walk around in order to participate in the natural world and they experience the beauty, the vastness, the greatness of the natural world and it's always a positive experience because nature has always a positive effects on human beings, it's positive because tells man to focus on spiritual and intellectual faculties and appreciate something that's greater.
Another important word is “lonely”, poetry in fact focuses on an individual alone possibly in the countryside, the idea of solitude isn't negative: they don't fell lonely indeed they appreciate the fact of being on their own, away from the corruption on the city, and they are alone because the want that.
“Cloud” is an element of natural world.
There's a very important element “When all at once I saw”: this poem as lots of poems focus on visual imagery: he sees things, the use of visual images has to do with nature that gives you access to fundamental truth. The vision it's sudden, it comes almost as a divine manifestation, an epiphany and therefore it has a religious connotation (becomes an epiphany it's a manifestation of God to humanity); also very important is that as you see you understand because it has a very important impact on your mind. Visual images are used several times: “what all at once I saw”, “glance”, “I gazed – and gazed”, “they flash”, also from a structural and lexical point of view the amount of words connected with vision are relevant.
There's also the presence of alliterations of the letter “l” in the words: “lonely”, “clouds”, “floats”, “vales”, “hills”, “all”, “golden”, “daffodils”, “lake”, “fluttering”, that's a sound that's absolutely positive since it suggest that things are alive.
There's something strange in the relation between the poet and the natural world: he compares himself to a cloud, an element of the natural world, something that has not a will on itself it just flows, therefore there's a felling of surrender by the natural world. Daffodils are described as a “crowd” but actually there're flowers and they should be described as a “bunch”, there's an invention to the human and non-human: or rather there's complete identification between the human and the natural world, the poet has become part of the natural world which now has human qualities, the poem and the natural world are just one therefore they can exchange qualities.
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.
In the second stanza the poet goes into more detail about the daffodils and continuous the comparison between the poet and the stars. They reminded him of the Milky Way, because there were so many flowers packed together that they seemed to be never-ending. The poet guesses that there were ten thousand daffodils, which were "Tossing their heads in sprightly dance".
Now the focuses is on a starry night, talking about stars it's something that stress about the sublime and the visual images is on the sublime “the sky that shine and twinkle” and also on a felling that there's no end because the natural world is infinite. Again there's a dance which is something exciting and joyful, the focus is on the vision.
there's also an inversion in order “saw I” in order to stress the importance of the vision that again is sudden “at glance”.
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 third stanza the poet compares the waves of the lake to the waves of daffodils and decides that even though the lake is "sparkling," the daffodils win because they have more "glee." He then comments that he, like any other poet, could not help but be happy "in such a jocund company." He looked at the scene for a long time, but while he was there he was unable to understand what he had gained from the experience
In the third stanza we have the presence of another natural element: waves
“glee” has to meanings: 1) joy, happiness 2) but it comes from medieval music when it defined a kind of music; therefore there's a musical undertone.
there's the word “company” because the poet, the clouds, the stars and the waves are all together and also because the poet can't be alone since he's at once with nature.
The vision is stunning and the poet is completely taken in, “gaze” in fact implies something long, the poet lets the scenery to completely take him. It was just so beautiful that he didn't even understood how powerful that vision was
There's another element starting from line 18th: the importance of memory, in the lyrical ballads he tell us that poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity (later on).
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.
In the fourth and final stanza the poet describes what he gained from the experience. Afterwards, when he was lonely or feeling "pensive," he could remember the daffodils, seeing them with his "inward eye," and be content
It's no longer a vision experience but it has to do with your inward eye
Another important feature to highlight is the circular motion of the poem that stars with solitude and ends with solitude
The importance of memory, the memory of the beautiful moment he experience helps him overcome some moments in his life, nature is an antidote to sadness, loneliness and the moment you remember you're immediately back there.
He becomes a child again: Wordsworth goes back and feels the same joy he had felt that time.