I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth
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How does Wordsworth's imagery or tone in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" help convey his message about nature and its effects on humans?

Tone is the speaker's attitude toward a topic, object, or idea. The tone in Wordsworth's poem seems to be approving -- nature has the power to soothe and inspire us -- which reinforces the main idea: nature is positively influencing the speaker.

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Tone can be tricky to figure out because it describes the author's feelings about the subject of the poem. Often, a good place to begin to assess tone is by asking oneself what we're supposed to think of the speaker: are we supposed to like him or her? Dislike? Agree...

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Tone can be tricky to figure out because it describes the author's feelings about the subject of the poem. Often, a good place to begin to assess tone is by asking oneself what we're supposed to think of the speaker: are we supposed to like him or her? Dislike? Agree with? Disagree with? Believe? Doubt? The speaker in this particular text is presented as being intelligent and sensitive, which leads me to believe that Wordsworth approves of what the speaker says about the influence nature's beauty has on him. As a result, we might call the tone approving or sympathetic or appreciative. This positive tone seems to reinforce and emphasize the theme of the poem, that nature has the power to restore and inspire us, so much so that just the memory of it can make us feel blissful.

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Wordsworth's use of imagery, particularly in relation to the daffodils in this poem, strongly supports the poem's message about the power of nature to enliven the human spirit. The daffodils are described as "a crowd" and then, more tellingly, "a host"—the latter being a word we more frequently associate with angels, the heavenly host. Immediately, we imagine the daffodils as something celestial and beautiful, a gathering of beings of light.

Wordsworth continues this idea as he compares the daffodils to the "continuous . . . stars" in the sky, stretching seemingly on and on across the vastness of the sky. The daffodils are also personified, with human emotions such as "glee" attributed to them. They are a "jocund company," and they have brought great "wealth" to the observer simply through the power of their beauty.

This wealth, the final stanza suggests, is something that can be stored up and taken away—the heart of the speaker "with pleasure fills" when he thinks about the daffodils, and metaphorically "dances" alongside them.

The way the daffodils are described in this poem, then, suggests not only that they have intent and purpose—they exist both for their own "glee" and in order to delight those who see them—but also that they, as a manifestation of nature, are continuous, heavenly, and beautiful.

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By identifying himself with the image of a cloud—"I wandered lonely as a cloud"—the poet emphasizes his oneness with nature. He pictures himself as part of the natural world, not separate from it. He drifts in harmony with the elements. As he floats cloudlike, he almost immediately meets a host of golden daffodils and experiences joy. He has been lonely; they are a happy crowd that eases his feeling of solitude. "Ten thousand I saw in a glance," says the poet. And as if they are people, they seem, as they blow in the wind, to be doing a "sprightly dance."

Wordsworth the "cloud" feels close to the daffodils: As they wave in the breeze, more lively than the waves dancing on the nearby lake, the poet cannot help but feel "gay/In such a jocund [laughing] company." The image of the dancing daffodils fills him with joy.

Wordsworth's tone of joy at seeing the daffodils expresses his delight in the natural world. In the last stanza, however, the spell is somewhat broken. Wordsworth no longer directly feels the joyous oneness with nature that he experienced when he was actually in the company of the daffodils. Lying at different times in a "vacant" or "pensive" [thoughtful] mood inside his home on his sofa, he does, however, have his memory, what he calls his "inward eye." This memory of the daffodils fills him with "bliss" and "pleasure." He can in tranquillity recall the emotion he once felt. Overall his tone is joyful and the images lovely because nature is healing and good.

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