‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ is one of the best-loved poems of the fountainhead of romanticism William Wordsworth. This poem features how the spontaneous emotions of the poet’s heart sparked by the energetic dance of daffodils help him pen down this sweet little piece. On 15 April 1802, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy came across a host of daffodils around Glencoyne Bay in the Lake District. This event was the inspiration behind the composition of Wordsworth’s lyric poem.
‘Daffodils’ or ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ has been dissected methodically for illustrating the poet’s mood, the surrounding location, the allegorical meanings, and the beauty of nature in full motion. The poet’s love and proximity with nature have inspired and moved generations after generations of poetry lovers and young minds.
Read and Listen to I Wandered lonely as a Cloud Poem
Read and listen along to ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud‘ in full below before diving into the analysis:
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud 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.
Explore I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud‘ by William Wordsworth describes how a host of golden daffodils dancing in the breeze of the Lake District mesmerized his heart.
The speaker, likely William Wordsworth himself, is wandering down the hills and valley when he stumbled upon a beautiful field of daffodils. The speaker is transfixed by the daffodils seemingly waving, fluttering, and dancing along the waterside. Albeit, the lake’s waves moved as fervently, but the beauty of daffodils outdid with flying colors. The poet feels immensely gleeful and chirpy at this mesmerizing natural sight. Amongst the company of flowers, he remains transfixed at those daffodils wavering with full vigor. Oblivious to the poet is the fact that this wondrous scenery of daffodils brings the poet immense blithe and joy when he’s in a tense mood or perplexed for that matter. His heart breaths a new life and gives him exponential happiness at sight worth a thousand words.
Though the poem’s title hints at a cloud, it is not about it. Instead, it is about a group of golden daffodils dancing beside the lake and beneath the trees. Wordsworth’s poetic persona, at some point, visited that spot, and he is describing how he felt having the sight of those beautiful flowers. The poet metaphorically compares him to a cloud for describing his thoughtless mental state on that day. Like a cloud, he was wandering in the valley aimlessly. The sudden spark that the daffodils gave to his creative spirit is expressed in this poem.
Structure and Form
The poem is composed of four stanzas of six lines each. It is an adherent to the quatrain-couplet rhyme scheme, A-B-A-B-C-C. Every line conforms to iambic tetrameter. The poem ‘Daffodils’ works within the a-b-a-b-c-c rhyme scheme as it uses consistent rhyming to invoke nature at each stanza’s end. Moreover, it helps in creating imagery skillfully as the poet originally intended. The poem flows akin to a planned song in a rhythmic structure. Consonance and alliteration are used to create rhymes.
This poem is written from the first-person point of view. Therefore it is an ideal example of a lyric poem. The poetic persona is none other than Wordsworth himself. This piece contains a regular meter. There are eight syllables per line, and the stress falls on the second syllable of each foot. There are four iambs in each line. Thus the poem is in iambic tetrameter. For example, let’s have a look at the metrical scheme of the first line:
I wan-/dered lone-/ly as/ a cloud
Figurative Language and Poetic Devices
Wordsworth makes use of several literary devices in ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’ These include but are not limited to similes, hyperboles, personification, and allusion. Similes are also used since the poet alludes to an aimless cloud as he takes a casual stroll. Moreover, daffodils are compared to star clusters in Milky Way to explicate the magnitude of daffodils fluttering freely beside the lake. At times, hyperbole is used to explicate the immensity of the situation. The allusion of daffodils to stars spread across the Milky Way is one such instance. Furthermore, the daffodils are even made anthropomorphous to create a human portrayal of Mother Nature in this instance.
Moreover, the poet has also used reverse personifications, equating humans to clouds and daffodils to humans with constant movement. Using this clever tactic, the poet brings people closer to nature, becoming a hallmark of William Wordsworth’s most basic yet effective methods for relating readers with nature, appreciating its pristine glory. Daffodils celebrate the beauty of nature and its purity, along with the bliss of solitude. He deems his solitude as an asset and inspires him to live a meaningful life.
Wordsworth makes use of imagery figuratively to display his feelings and emotions after encountering the daffodils. Firstly, the image of the cloud describes the poet’s mental state, and the images that appear after that vividly portray the flowers. These images, in most cases, are visual, and some have auditory effects (For example, “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”) associated with them.
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 of ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,’ Wordsworth explains his one-day occasional aimless wandering. The term “wandered” means walking free of their own accord. The poet is referring to himself as the “cloud” in a metaphorical sense of the word. Although the clouds mostly travel in groups, this cloud prefers singular hovering. However, he clearly mentions his passing through valleys and hills on a routine walk, simplifying the narrative.
The poet comes across a bunch of daffodils fluttering in the air. He’s dumbfounded by the beauty of those “golden daffodils.” Although yellow would be more suitable for daffodils, the poet intends to signify its beauty by using golden color. The daffodils are termed as “host” or crowd since they are together in a collective bunch. They are a source of immense beauty for the poet hailing from the Romantic Era.
Those daffodils are firmly perched beside a lake, beneath some trees. It’s a windy day overall, and the flowers dance and flutter as the wind blows. Let’s take a step back for a brief moment to locate the premises of the poet’s inspiration. The poet resided in the famous Lake District, a region rich in scenic locations entailing hills, valleys, and lakes. As a result, the location is realistic in its entirety. Wordsworth refers to daffodils dancing, a trait relatable to humans.
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 above allegory is a clear and direct referral to our native galaxy Milky Way. The space continuum holds great mystery for our Romantic Era poet as he envisions the daffodils to be in a constant state of wonder, as are the stars beyond the reach of humans.
The poet makes an allusion to the Milky Way, our galaxy filled with its own planetary solar systems stretched beyond infinity. The lake supposedly has a large area since the daffodils are dispersed along the shoreline. Along the Milky Way’s premises lie countless stars, which the poet alludes to daffodils fluttering beside the lake.
By “ten thousand,” he meant a collection of daffodils were fluttering in the air, spellbinding the poet at the beauty of the scene. It’s just a wild estimation at best as he supposes ten thousand daffodils at a glance. The term “sprightly” comes from sprite, which is primarily dandy little spirits people deemed existed in such times. They are akin to fairies.
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:
The speaker liked the “sprightly dance” of the daffodils so much that he, in the third stanza, says that the sparkling waves of a lake beside cannot match their beauty. The waves are sparkling due to the sunlight. This image is contrasted with the dance of daffodils. Besides, the speaker imagines the tossing of their heads to a wave. So, the contrast presents the resemblance of the lake’s water to the daffodils.
Witnessing the scene, the romantic poet became so gay that he was not able to move from the location. The flowers were a “jocund company” to him that he could not find in humans. “Jocund” means cheerful and light-hearted. Their silent presence told more than the words of humans could convey to him. They had a purity that made the poet spellbound.
The repetition of the word “gazed” in the next line points at the poet’s state of mind at that moment. His eyes were transfixed at the golden beauty of the daffodils. That’s why he kept on gazing until he could drink their serenity to the lees. The second half of the line quickly catches readers’ attention. Wordsworth is now asking them what wealth the flowers had brought him on that day. Thus, he quickly comes into reality from his imagination to inform readers about his viewpoint.
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 last stanza describes the inspiration behind writing ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’ According to Wordsworth, whenever he lies on his couch in a vacant or thoughtful mood, the image flashes in his mind’s eyes. It is a simultaneous process, not a forced one. Blissful memories are so gripping that they stick with a person throughout their life. So, whenever the poet’s mind becomes empty of thoughts, the image supplies him the source of energy to re-think. Not only that, when he feels down, the scene acts similarly.
The “inward eye” is a reference to the mind’s eyes. When one shuts his physical eyes, it unleashes those eyes. Wordsworth compares the daffodils to the “bliss” of his solitary moments. He provides the reason why he says so. According to him, the memory associated with the daffodils fills his heart with pleasure, making his heart leap up once again like a child. In this way, the poet highlights the role of nature, especially daffodils, in his life.
Throughout ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,’ Wordsworth engages with themes of nature, memory, and spirituality. These three are tied together as the speaker, Wordsworth himself, moves through a beautiful landscape. He takes pleasure in the sight of the daffodils and revives his spirit in nature. At the same time, Wordsworth explores the theme of memory, as he does in other works such as ‘Tintern Abbey.’ The flowers are there to comfort him in real-time and as a memory from the past.
The poem begins with a symbolic reference to the cloud. It is wandering and lonely. The poetic persona is the embodiment of such a cloud. Hence, it symbolizes being lonely and thoughtless. This state is achieved when one is free from mundane thoughts.
The most important symbol of this piece is the daffodils. The narcissistic description of the flower seems to be alluding to the Greek myth. Apart from that, the daffodil acts as a symbol of rejuvenation and pure joy. Wordsworth becomes the means through which the flowers express their vibrance. In his pensive mood, they become a means for the poet’s self-reflection.
Tone and Mood
The tone of this poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, is emotive, hyperbolic, expressive, and thoughtful. In the first stanza, the speaker’s tone helps readers understand how he felt after seeing the daffodils on a specific event. As the poem progresses, Wordsworth intensifies it. Thus it appears hyperbolic. In the last stanza, he chooses a thoughtful tone for describing the impact of the scene on his mind. The tone also follows the mood of the poem. Throughout the text, the poet maintains a calm and joyous mood. It is like the breeze that made the daffodils dance on that day. While going through the poem, readers can feel this relaxing mood.
Hailed as the champion of the Romantic Movement in the early 19th century, William Wordsworth dwelled in the scenic Lake District (United Kingdom), far from the madding crowd. Its roots can be traced back to Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal, in which she reminisces a casual stroll with his brother in 1802, where they came across beautiful daffodils. The poem was composed within the time period of 1804-1807 and subsequently published in 1807, with a revised version published in 1815. The poem is considered a masterpiece of Romantic Era poetry steeped in natural imagery. Walking along Glencoyne Bay, the siblings stumbled across beautiful daffodils along the bay. As the sister’s journal recalls, the daffodils seemed immensely beautiful from a far-off view. It was indeed a magnificent sight.
About William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote beautiful poetry filled with sweet imagery, usually based around the natural world. Often Wordsworth’s poems contained slight somber undertones, as is the case in this poem, as we will explore shortly. This is possible due to the conflict In Wordsworth’s life and his battle with depression. Some scholars suggest that Wordsworth’s relationship with his sister, Dorothy was far from platonic. But Wordsworth did marry and lived with both his wife and sister.
Wordsworth lived through the French Revolution, which he initially supported and later rebuked. He, along with his close friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was the pioneer of the romantic era of poetry, and his earlier romantic poems were widely derided as a result of this. He was also the poet laureate for queen Victoria for seven years.
Today, Wordsworth’s reputation rests heavily on the collection Lyrical Ballads that he published along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798.
The poem, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ or ‘Daffodils,’ is famous for its simplicity, sing-song-like rhythm, and thematic beauty. It talks about a simple thing: the dancing of the daffodils in a calm breeze. But, the representation is thought-provoking. Readers from all age groups can understand the poem easily and comprehend it in their way, without any restrictions at all. That’s why it is considered one of the best-loved poems of English literature.
The poem’s main idea deals with the role of nature in the poet’s life. If one has the eyes to see it, one can comprehend the serene beauty of simplicity within seconds. For that, the mind should be as thoughtless as a lonely cloud that floats aimlessly over the valleys and hills.
Through this poem, Wordsworth conveys a vital message that includes how nature can be of the most incredible resort when one is feeling low or pensive. It is a source of great energy that can rejuvenate the soul.
‘Daffodils’ is a thoughtful mediation on those beautiful golden flowers. It contains a calm, soothing, and pleasant representation of mother nature that inspires the poet. The memory associated with the daffodils becomes a source of energy while the poet reflects on something or he is pensive. For such a presentation of nature, it is a beautiful example of a romantic poem.
The use of sound adds to the mood of the poem. For example, the last line, “And dances with the daffodils,” contains a repetition of the “d” sound that adds to the merry mood of the poem. In the previous line, the repetition of soft “s” sounds creates a soothing sound. It influences the mood as well.
The poet was amazed by the number of daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze. He thought it fit compare them with the stars as they were countless. Besides, he might be looking at them from a distance (like a cloud looks down from the firmament). It made him think of the stars twinkling on the milky way.
The phrase “a host of golden daffodils” refers to a group of daffodils the poet saw one day. He personifies the daffodils by using the term “host.” Besides, “golden daffodils” is an example of metonymy. Here, the poet is referring to the effect in place of the cause, the sunlight.
It is a metaphor that contains an implicit reference to the daffodils. According to Wordsworth, the flowers or the memory is a “bliss” in his solitude as it fills him with energy and happiness.
Here is a list of a few poems that explore similar kinds of themes as present in Wordsworth’s heartwarming lyric ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’
- ‘Hymn to the Spirit of Nature’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley – It’s one of the best-loved poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley. This poem is sung by a voice in the air to the soul of the world. Explore more P.B. Shelley poems.
- ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by William Butler Yeats – It’s one of the best-known W.B. Yeats poems. This poem depicts a speaker’s longing to leave the city and spend time on the isle, close to nature. Read more W.B. Yeats poems.
- ‘To Autumn’ by John Keats – In this poem, Keats presents a sumptuous description of the season of Autumn and it’s one of the best poems of John Keats. Explore more John Keats poems.
- ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge – It’s one of the best-known S.T. Coleridge poems. This beautiful poem describes how one can use the power of imagination to make a mundane place awe-inspiring. Read more Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems.