How is "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth a lyrical ballad?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" was not published in Wordsworth and Coleridge's groundbreaking book of poems Lyrical Ballads, it is an excellent example of the new theory of poetry that Wordsworth described in that's volume's preface.

Wordsworth wanted poetry to move away from the aristocratic subjects...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Although "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" was not published in Wordsworth and Coleridge's groundbreaking book of poems Lyrical Ballads, it is an excellent example of the new theory of poetry that Wordsworth described in that's volume's preface.

Wordsworth wanted poetry to move away from the aristocratic subjects and themes of Neoclassic and preceding styles of poetry. He advocated for poetry written in the simple language of the common person. He thought it should be about everyday events and ordinary people. Famously, he declared poetry to be

the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is written in the simple language of a Lyrical Ballads poem and describes an everyday event. Rather than depicting a heroic battle scene from Greek or Roman antiquity, Wordsworth describes how, while walking along one spring day feeling lonely, he was surprised to come across thousands of daffodils blooming in front of a lake. They all waved together in the breeze as if they were dancing. They seemed so joyful and humanlike, and there were so many of them that the poet felt joy rising in his heart and was no longer lonely. This is a simple story that could happen to anyone who took a walk in nature.

More importantly, at the end of the poem, the narrator explains that while he is lying on his couch, perhaps feeling sad, he can recollect the daffodils and experience joy. As he puts it:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

This remembering mimics the poet's act of recollecting in tranquility a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. The wanderer was moved, struck, and filled with joy at the sight of the daffodils: therefore, he spontaneously felt joy and wonder. Later, in a calmer mood, he recreates these emotions.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A lyrical ballad is a poem that tells a story, often focusing on human emotion. They are typical of the Romantic era, an era during which feeling was prized over logic, nature was privileged over society, and artists became more and more interested in representing the beauty of the human experience (especially, for Wordsworth, the commonplace or everyday). In "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," the speaker addresses the way the beauties of nature impact him, improving his mood and filling him with pleasure. He describes the feeling of loneliness he once experienced, followed by the sight of daffodils "Tossing their heads in sprightly dance." He feels that the beauty of the flowers near the "sparkling waves" could not but make "A poet . . . gay." The speaker realizes, despite his loneliness, "What wealth" he truly possesses. After this time, whenever he finds himself in similarly low spirits, he only has to recall the beautiful, natural scene, and he recognizes the solitude to be not sad but, instead, "bliss[ful]." He can be instantly returned to happiness by the memory of the dancing daffodils because his "heart with pleasure fills" anew.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

William Wordsworth's “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” was first published in 1807 as a part of a collection of poems called Poems in Two Volumes. To determine why this poem is considered a lyrical ballad we first need to look at a couple of important definitions.

Lyrical: lyrical writing is writing that looks at feelings and emotions. While we associate these terms with love poems (or songs), lyrical poems are often about other kinds of feelings or emotions. In “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” Wordsworth does not seem to writing about anything but looking at flowers for most of the poem. In fact, it isn't until the end that he finally comes out and expresses the feelings aroused by the daffodils:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

A ballad is song or poem that tells a story. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is a story in the sense that it has a beginning, middle, end, and the speaker has a meaningful experience: He sees the daffodils, he experiences the daffodils in their surroundings, and he tells us how the experience continues to affect him later in life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team