Friday, April 22, 2011

William Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

Although spring brings with it a host of annoyances (pollen and the allergies that come with it, the start of Red Sox season, the insanity of finals for both teachers and students), one of my all-time favorite spring-related events is the blooming of daffodils. Even when it is slightly chilly and incredibly windy (as it was in New England yesterday), seeing these flowers fools me into thinking that spring is here and it is time to put away the winter boots and coats. Inevitably, seeing the flowers immediately makes me think of Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," which is one of my favorite English Romantic poems.

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
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.

To me, this is the perfect example of Romantic poetry. Besides being by Wordsworth (a writer who arguably ushered in the period with his and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads), this poem seems to embody the idea of feeling over reason, which is a key characteristic in Romantic poetry. Rather than viewing the world from a rational perspective, the speaker here allows his spirit to be lifted by the happy sight of daffodils.

There are many, many other Romantic characteristics in this poem, but for now, I'll leave you to enjoy the poem and ponder the daffodils as Good Friday/Earth Day comes to a close.