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On my way home from this morning's writing session with Angela De Groot (angeladegroot, who, by the way, just won an award from Writer's Digest for a poem she wrote), I spied daffodils in bloom on a hill. No further explanation is needed for today's poem choice - the rest of my post is a reprise from last April.

Some of you may know this poem as "Daffodils", though that's not its actual name; its real name is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud", and it's an extremely popular, much-anthologized poem.

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.


Form: Each stanza has 6 lines, is written in iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet per line: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM), and has a rhyme scheme of ABABCC; this form, essentially an open form in "sixain" (six lines to a stanza), was first developed by Shakespeare in "Venus and Adonis", and was used by Wordsworth in this poem, written in 1804.

Discussion: If you read this one aloud, it is easy to fall into a "pause-at-the-end-of-each-line" mentality, as a means of emphasizing the rhyme scheme, but this is something you SHOULD NOT DO, because you will be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the rhythm and sing-song rhyme effect you achieve, and you will not truly hear the poem.

Here's the first stanza written out with pauses only where they naturally occur:

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.


If you go back and read the poem aloud, following the punctuation, you will be able to better hear what Wordsworth is saying. And while references to nature and use of metaphor are common devices in modern poetry, they are used in part because Wordsworth came along and wrote in the way that he did, with a reverence for and appreciation of nature, and with a focus on emotional response to nature and other stimuli. As a result, Wordsworth is widely credited as being one of the first poets in the Romantic era, along with his friend Coleridge, whose poems were included in the 1798 publication Lyrical Ballads, which I referenced in a now-old quoteskimming post.

Today's poem is one of the best-loved and most well-known in the English language, and that is with good reason: its imagery is lovely, its rhyme and metre make it easy to memorize, and the story it tells (of seeing something beautiful and unexpected in nature and reliving it in memory) is one that resonates with a lot of people. Wordsworth also looks at psychological aspects of memory here - he relates the actual story of his walk with his sister, Dorothy, and their happenining upon a large swath of daffodils by a lake. But the point isn't that he took a walk and saw daffodils; it's the emotional journey he took (from loneliness to happiness), and the effect of the memory of the daffodils on his present mood. At the time he wrote the poem, he was breaking new ground, although it may seem tame to some now. But I rather think that those who take the time to read the poem aloud will not think it tame, but will instead take the journey along with Wordsworth from lonely wandering to a happy view of blinding yellow daffodils to an appreciation of the joy the memory must hold.

Speaking of Dorothy Wordsworth, she accompanied her brother most everywhere he went, and she was a poet as well as a diligent diarist. Wordsworth is believed to have relied on her diaries when calling up details to write some of his poems. Here, for instance, is Dorothy's journal entry from the excursion with her brother when they saw daffodils by the lake:


The entry is from her Grasmere Journals, and is dated April 15, 1802:

Thursday 15th. It was a threatening misty morning—but mild. We set off after dinner from Eusemere. Mrs Clarkson went a short way with us but turned back. The wind was furious and we thought we must have returned. We first rested in the large Boat-house, then under a furze Bush opposite Mr Clarkson's. Saw the plough going in the field. The wind seized our breath the Lake was rough. There was a Boat by itself floating in the middle of the Bay below Water Millock. We rested again in the Water Millock Lane. The hawthorns are black and green, the birches here and there greenish but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the Twigs. We got over into a field to avoid some cows—people working, a few primroses by the roadside, woodsorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs C. calls pile wort. 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 seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and 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 and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea. Rain came on—we were wet when we reached Luffs but we called in. Luckily all was chearless and gloomy so we faced the storm—we must have been wet if we had waited—put on dry clothes at Dobson's. I was very kindly treated by a young woman, the Landlady looked sour but it is her way. She gave us a goodish supper. Excellent ham and potatoes. We paid 7/ when we came away. William was sitting by a bright fire when I came downstairs. He soon made his way to the Library piled up in a corner of the window. He brought out a volume of Enfield's Speaker, another miscellany, and an odd volume of Congreve's plays. We had a glass of warm rum and water. We enjoyed ourselves and wished for Mary. It rained and blew when we went to bed. N.B. Deer in Gowbarrow park like skeletons.


It's pretty obvious that Wordsworth and his sister observed the same field of flowers, not just because we know that they were together when they came upon the lake and its flowers, but also because their writings share some other commonalities, such as the description of the daffodils dancing in the wind. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but I rather think not.

I hope you enjoyed your day, and I hope you found daffodils or some other bit of loveliness to hold in your mind's eye. My friend Andi is hosting Poetry Friday today over at A Wrung Sponge - you can see all the entries by clicking the Poetry Friday box below.


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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
double_t_t
Mar. 18th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
That is indeed, a beautiful poem. Thank you for explaining the iambic tetrameter. I know very little about poetry writing. I just know when I like a poem and when I don't. =)

I enjoyed reading the entry in Dorothy Wordsworth's journal. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Have a wonderful weekend.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 18th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
I hope you have a wonderful weekend too!

I thought it was interesting what a symbiotic relationship William and Dorothy had with one another - and this is not an isolated instance of his apparent reliance on her journals or shared memory.
robinellen
Mar. 19th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils -- pure genius, this line. It gets me every time, and it's why I LOVE this poem :)
kellyrfineman
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way . . . *happy sigh*
cloudscome
Mar. 19th, 2011 09:15 am (UTC)
Kelly this is an excellent choice for today! I always think back to a particular hillside under the trees that is covered in daffodils - we used to drive by there on the way to church when I was in college. So stunningly beautiful when all the daffodils burst out & dance in the wind! "They flash upon that inward eye
  Which is the bliss of solitude"

Thanks for the diary quote too. I had not seen that before & it makes the poem even more intriguing.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 19th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
The relationship between Dorothy and William is pretty fascinating, I think. I keep meaning to read more about it, actually.

Have a happy spring day, Andi!
poolhallace
Mar. 19th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Daffodils are the best flower ever. You can't go wrong with a yellow flower that defies winter's attempts at staying put! I love this poem as well. Thanks for this little slice of Spring!
kellyrfineman
Mar. 19th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
You are most welcome!
(Anonymous)
Mar. 19th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Georgia's favorite poem!
In your recent pass through the Georgia Nicholson books, did you pick up the references to this one? She's in a "shortening words is cool, and naturally turning a dipthong into a single vowel shortens it" mood, so they all go around reciting "I wandered lonely as a clud."

-- Sarah R.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 19th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Georgia's favorite poem!
I remember that - so funny!

Confession of Kelly Fineman: Even though it hasn't been long since I read the entire series, I'm kind of eager to read it again!
mlyearofreading
Mar. 19th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the daffodils. We're not quite there yet, but this helped build my anticipation!
kellyrfineman
Mar. 19th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I had no idea we were there yet, but there they were!
delzey
Mar. 20th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
i think i would have understood and appreciated poetry better if i'd been taught to read the punctuation and not the lines. i respond so much better to the sound of poetry, but find line breaks create sound breaks to my inner ear that are hard to reconcile. thanks for reinforcing this idea as a "reminder" for my inner ear.

confession time: the first time i recall hearing this poem read was by bulwinkle j. moose on the rocky and bulwinkle cartoons. he only managed the first stanza before chaos insured, but i cannot read those lines without hearing his voice. to wit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv1L-8f2erg
delzey
Mar. 20th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
that should be "chaos ensued."
kellyrfineman
Mar. 20th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
"and then my heart with anger fills
A dollar a piece for daff-o-dills?"
LOL!

I don't recall seeing that before, but it made my day!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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