Relate "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" to Wordworth's idea of poetry ("spontaneous overflow" and "emotional tranquility").

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Michael Otis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the more famous poems in the canon of Romantic literature, William Wordsworth composed "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" in 1804. The lyric poem of four stanzas captures a moment two years before when Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, strolling near a lake in Cumbria County, happened across a field of daffodils hugging the shore. Two years before this experience, Wordsworth (along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge) in his preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, offered his definition of poetry - what became the motto of Romantic poetry in general: " Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility". It is the fourth stanza of the poem which clearly reifies this definition. Unlike Plato who believed that poets composed immediately after inspiration, Wordsworth believed that a lengthy period of reflection - "emotion recollected in tranquility - did (and should) follow the first inrush of the muse. In the Lyrical Ballads the poet continues:

For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men … (Brett and Jones 246)

It is this indispensable link between inspiration and anamnesis - "the inward eye" of the fourth stanza - which constitutes the heart of Wordsworth's view of poetry, and which for both poet and reader add depth of meaning and truth to the recollected experience.