Monday, April 8, 2013

The Daffodils by William Wordsworth


The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth

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:
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,
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" (also commonly known as "The Daffodils") is a lyric poem by William Wordsworth.    The inspiration for the poem came from a walk he took with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District. Wordsworth would draw on this to compose "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" in 1804. It was inspired by Dorothy's journal entry describing the walk:
When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up -- But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed and reeled and danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway -- We rested again & again. The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea.
—Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journal Thursday, 15 April 1802
At the time he wrote the poem, Wordsworth was living with his wife, Mary Hutchinson, and sister Dorothy at Town End, in Grasmere in England's Lake District. Mary contributed what Wordsworth later said were the two best lines in the poem, recalling the "tranquil restoration" of Tintern Abbey,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude
the entire household thus contributing to the poem. Nevertheless Mary Moorman notes that Dorothy was excluded from the poem, even though she had seen the daffodils together with Wordsworth. The poem itself was placed in a section of Poems in Two Volumes entitled Moods of my Mind in which he grouped together his most deeply felt lyrics. Others included To a Butterfly, a childhood recollection of chasing butterflies with Dorothy, and The Sparrow's Nest, in which he says of Dorothy "She gave me eyes, she gave me ears".

The earlier Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems by both himself and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, had been first published in 1798 and had started the romantic movement in England. It had brought Wordsworth and the other Lake poets into the poetic limelight. Wordsworth had published nothing new since the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads, and a new publication was eagerly awaited. Wordsworth had, however, gained some financial security by the 1805 publication of the fourth edition of Lyrical Ballads; it was the first from which he enjoyed the profits of copyright ownership. He decided to turn away from "The Recluse" and devote more attention to publishing Poems in Two Volumes, in which "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" first appeared.

It is generally considered Wordsworth's most famous work. In the "Nation's Favourite Poems", a poll carried out by the BBC's Bookworm, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" came fifth. Often anthologized, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is commonly seen as a classic of English romanticism within poetry, although Poems in Two Volumes was poorly reviewed by Wordsworth's contemporaries.

2 comments:

silvereagle said...

Great to learn the background of this poem. I wonder if the children of today are exposed to it in the classroom?

The daffodils are certainly beautiful, but do not come close to the aroma of the sweetshrub mentioned in your comment to yesterday's post. Delicious memories!!!

Jay M. said...

Very interesting. Enjoyed learning where he got the inspiration for this. I remember reading a fair amount of Wordsworth in high school, and of course, not thinking to much of it then. Age changes one's perspective and now I see this in a new light. Excellent spring poem.
Peace <3
Jay