December 26, 2020

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

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.

~ William Wordsworth

This famous and amazing poem speaks about one of William Wordsworth’s walks in the countryside of England’s Lake District. During this walk, he encountered a long strip of daffodils... Besides being a quintessentially Romantic poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” explores the close and fundamental relationship between nature and humanity. Introducing the idea of loneliness in the first line, but suggesting at the same time that the Poet is not really alone at all, Wordsworth intimates that the natural world—and a strong bond with it—is essential to human happiness and serenity.

The stars of the show in this poem are the daffodils. In the Northern Hemisphere, these beautiful flowers are one of the most welcoming signs of spring. Following the wintry months of grey skies and rain, daffodils bring bright swathes of color to our gardens and parks. That’s why they symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. These strong, resilient flowers are a positive, life-affirming symbol, with a bright and joyful yellow color. As it was not enough, the Poet describes the daffodils as having imaginatively human characteristics. Take their “dancing,” for instance, which is referenced in every stanza and which is an inherently joyful activity, despite being just the effect of the wind… In addition, Wordsworth projects human emotion onto the daffodils: “A poet could not but be gay/In such a jocund company”—even though, obviously, the daffodils don’t experience the world in this way.

As a result of all this, and other subliminal messages of the poem, the reader is led to feel the overwhelming happiness that the Poet enjoyed at the sight of what he describes as a “crowd” and a “host” of daffodils—b.t.w., “host” also has the subtle connotation of relating to angels—that are “fluttering and dancing in the breeze…“

P.S. This post wants to be a sign of hope and optimism for the New Year ahead, and is especially dedicated to my friends who are struggling. 
In this video, British actor Simon Russell Beale performs William Wordsworth's most famous poem, which takes on new meaning amid the coronavirus crisis (August 15 2020, directed and produced by Juliet Riddell and Joe Sinclair; curated by Allie Esiri and edited by Joe Sinclair). 

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