What are the literary devices in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A widely anthologized poem of the Romantic poet Wordsworth, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is clearly what the poet describes in his preface to his Lyrical Ballads as "emotion recollected in tranquility"; for, as the poet recalls his memories, he lies on his couch contentedly and recalls his vision of many beautiful golden daffodils that lay beside a lake.

  • Simile

There is much power in this poem in the use of the simile, a comparison between two unlike things using the word as. In this poem Wordsworth immediately immerses himself into Nature with the first line that employs a simile: "I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills." Further, the following stanza begins with another simile: "Continuous as the stars that shine/And twinkle on the milky way."

  • Personification

The daffodils are personified as they are referred to as "a crowd,/A host." In similar fashion, the stars "toss their heads in sprightly dance." Then, "the waves beside them danced" also. The poet finds himself in "such a jocund company" and the "sparkling waves are in glee" (jocund and glee are emotional states).

  • Alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds)

"I gazed and gazed..." /g/; "What wealth" /w/

  • Feminine rhyme

"Fluttering and dancing in the breeze"

  • The use of inversion

"For oft, when on my couch I lie"
"
Ten thousand saw I"

  • Metaphor

"That inward eye" is a metaphor for the memory (this is an implied comparison since memory is not mentioned).

  • Metonymy

In the last stanza, the "inward eye" and the "heart" are parts used for the whole person of the poet.

  •  Parallelism

"Beside the lake, beneath the trees" (the two phrases are constructed similarly)

  • Repetition

"I gazed--and gazed" Also, many of the ideas of the first stanza are repeated in subsequent ones; for example, the idea of the "crowd of daffodils" runs throughout the entire poem.

  • Rhythm and Rhyme

The poem is written in iambic tetrameter (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable four times) with the rhyme scheme of ababcc in each stanza. Iambic lends emotion and imitates human speech.

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