Critically analyze "I wandered lonely as a cloud" according to Wordsworth's own criteria for poetry as described in the "Preface to Lyrical Ballads." Does it have the desired effect? 

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Wordsworth's poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is one of the best examples of the principles that he presents in his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads." In the Preface, Wordsworth states that "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" and that it springs from "emotion recollected in tranquility." The emotion being described will itself be pleasurable, and the poem will discuss activities associated with real life that the reader can relate to, but it will use "the music of harmonious metrical language" to describe the recollected emotions. Wordsworth's poem about daffodils is a case study of this definition of poetry. In the poem, the speaker recounts a day when he was wandering about outside and came upon a "sea of golden daffodils." The scene made him happy, but he didn't think much of it at the time. Later, though, he found that "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." So later, in tranquility, he was recollecting the daffodils. That's no doubt when he wrote this poem! The poem not only described the emotion so as to recreate it in himself and in his readers, but it did so in a lyrical form. The poem uses a consistent rhythm and meter of iambic tetrameter, which is very "harmonious," and it uses a strong rhyme scheme where the first and third lines in each stanza rhyme with each other, as do the second and fourth, and the fifth and sixth. This also is very musical. Finally, he uses poetic diction that increases the beauty of the poetry. He uses imagery, personification, similes, and other techniques, plus he uses alliteration, consonance, and assonance to make the words more melodious. The result, as Wordsworth predicts in the Preface, is that "of two descriptions . . . the one in prose and the other in verse, each of them equally well executed, the one in verse will be read a hundred times where the prose is read once." That means that if he had simply written a paragraph about the daffodils, someone might read it once, but they wouldn't want to read it again. On the other hand, this poem has been read over and over again and always brings pleasure. I myself have probably read it over 100 times, and I still love it! So, this poem not only demonstrates Wordsworth's concepts from the Preface, but it also proves the truth of them. 

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