In “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” the speaker is a human, who experiences the startling beauty of nature through the unexpected discovery of an entire sea of daffodils by the water. This poem is pensive and calm, using light, frivolous vocabulary: the daffodils are “fluttering and dancing in the breeze,” and “tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” The waves in the bay, as well, dance and sparkle, and yet the daffodils are more captivating even than the ocean, multitudinous as they are, as the stars in the sky.
In Wordsworth’s poem nature is powerful and inviting, exhibiting forces of healing in the form of bright colors and gentle vibes. It is recounted from a comfortable, safe perspective; when the speaker is resting on his safe, warm couch, the memories of his solo walk along the bay
…flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
These recollections serve as a comfort and pleasure to him, even when he is comfortable in a pleasant environment. Such was the power of the scene.
De la Mare’s poem also presents nature as a powerful force, but an impersonal, destructive one. The poem is told from the perspective of sea birds in a storm, and the vocabulary is a violent as Wordsworth’s is serene: “And the wind rose, and the sea rose,/To the angry billows’ roar,” and in the second verse,
And the yeasty surf curdled over the sands,
The gaunt grey rocks between;
And the tempest raved, and the lightning’s fire
Struck blue on the spindrift hoar –
Here the birds have lost control, and the storm is forcing them onto the shore, waves tossing and wind howling, a wholly different scene than Wordsworth’s happy spring day. Even in the end, when the storm breaks and the sun comes out, we see the lingering effects of the chaos – “the bright green headlands shone/As they’d never shone before,” and yet within this setting we have vast hoards of sea birds breaking this lovely post-storm calm with their “screeching, scolding, [and] scrabbling.” But in the final two lines of the poem, we see also “A snowy, silent, sun-washed drift/Of sea-birds on the shore.” And herein lies the true destruction: while a whole host of birds are tumbling through the sky, another host of birds has been killed by the violence of the storm.
Both poems depict the unpredictability of nature, and yet because Wordsworth’s poem is from the point of view of a man, on a bright spring day, his poem is more domestic and simple than that of de la Mare. The latter presents the point of view of nature itself, only to switch to a third person, withdrawn perspective at the end of the poem; humans have no role in the events that unfold. Any humans that exist in the area would have been safely indoors during the storm, away from any danger. We therefore get the rawness of nature where we would normally escape it for our fires and our beds; here is the flip-side of natural beauty – natural destruction. This poem is no walk in the garden, but a story of the wildness of natural processes.