I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud Literary Devices

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

Expert Answers

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

To me, the two most significant literary devices in this poem are personification and imagery, which create a joyful tone regarding the speaker's affections toward nature.

The speaker is "lonely" when he finds this incredibly serene vision in nature. Golden daffodils, lined up alongside the lake, underneath the trees...

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

To me, the two most significant literary devices in this poem are personification and imagery, which create a joyful tone regarding the speaker's affections toward nature.

The speaker is "lonely" when he finds this incredibly serene vision in nature. Golden daffodils, lined up alongside the lake, underneath the trees captivate his senses for a moment. The imagery here is so peaceful, and the personification of the daffodils "dancing" as the breeze blows them adds to the feelings of contentment, overtaking the speaker's initial feelings of loneliness.

The daffodils "[toss] their heads" as the waves "dance" alongside them. There is joy in this scene. Nature seems to perform for the speaker, intent on lightening his previously pensive mood; the use of personification here helps to develop this sense of a two-way interaction between the speaker and his surroundings.

He thus finds that he cannot help but be "gay" because of the "jocund company" which surrounds him. The beauty of the daffodils and the lake have transformed his mood, almost as easily as if he has been entertained by friends, noted by the friendly use of "company."

The daffodils continue to dance in the mind of the speaker when he later finds his feelings drifting toward pensive reflections. When he recalls the imagery of this scene, his heart now dances, the personification now transferring from the daffodils to his spirit.

The joyous tone regarding the abilities of nature to transform one's spirit are best created through the use of imagery and personification in this poem.

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

In lines 1-2, the speaker employs a simile to compare himself to a solitary cloud that floats alone. A simile is a comparison of unalike things using the word like or as. In lines 3-6, he personifies daffodils as "a crowd, / A host" that are "Fluttering and dancing in the breeze." Personification is when the the poet gives human traits to something that is not human. Here, the daffodils are described as a "crowd" that has the ability to dance.  

In lines 7-8, the speaker uses another simile to compare the number of daffodils to the number of "stars that shine / And twinkle." He employs hyperbole, or exaggeration, when he says that "[the daffodils] stretched in a never-ending line" (9). This emphasizes just how many there seem to be. He continues the personification of the flowers when he describes them as "Tossing their heads in sprightly dance" (12).  

The waves are likewise personified as "danc[ing]" in line 13, though the still-personified daffodils dance with more "glee" and provide pleasant "company" for him (14, 16). He says that the sight of these flowers has provided him with "wealth," though he does not mean financial wealth (18). He uses an example of metonymy here to say that the flowers have given him something of great value. Metonymy is the substitution of a thing for a detail or quality associated with that thing.  

Finally, in the last stanza, the speaker explains what he means by "wealth." He says that whenever he finds himself bored or thoughtful, his "inward eye" sees that lovely scene with the flowers again (21). Here, he refers to his mind's eye, but what he really means is his memory: again, this is an example of metonymy. There is no "eye" inside one's mind, but, rather, memory allows us to see again (in our minds) what we've seen before. He says that this experience of remembering fills his "heart with pleasure" (23). This is another example of metonymy: we don't actually feel pleasure in the heart, but we associate emotions with the heart. Finally, he personifies his heart as being able to "dance" with the flowers (24).

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

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).

"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"

"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.

"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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team