What are the key words in Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the key words in the poem include "lonely" to describe the poet as he wanders, which contrasts with the "crowd" of daffodils. He likens himself to a cloud, which floats alone, and then he comes upon a large number of flowers. In fact, he counts "ten thousand" of them. Unlike the poet, who wanders in solitude, they were "tossing" and doing a "sprightly dance." These words convey the energy and vibrancy of the flowers. They "out-did" even the tossing of the waves, which suggests how buoyant the daffodils are. One of the most important words in the poem is "wealth," which the poet uses to describe the richness and importance of the "show" the daffodils made. While wealth is often associated with money, the poet implies that the flowers offer true richness with their show of life and joy.

In the last stanza, the phrase "inward eye" is very important, as the poet uses this phrase to describe the process by which he recalls the sight of the daffodils and the way they bring him out of his state of "pensive" thought. He describes the "inward eye" as the "bliss of solitude," suggesting that only in solitude can he conjure up the flowers that brought him so much happiness and remove himself from his moody solitude to an inner state of transcendence and joy. He believed that sensory images from nature could help him transcend his current reality and experience a state that was more spiritual and elevated. 

chsmith1957 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main word and concept you need to know is “daffodils.” You should know what these vivid, yellow flowers of spring look like, and how overwhelming it would be to see a field of 10,000 of them. You should know what they look like when a light wind blows over them, causing them to flutter, dance, and toss their heads, as Wordsworth aptly describes. I’ve placed a few links below that include some daffodil photographs.

Five additional important words may be unfamiliar to contemporary readers, at least in the manner the poet used them.

From the first verse: “vales” are valleys.

From the third verse: “gay” is used to mean “happy,” “lively,” “merry,” or “joyous.”  “Jocund” means “pleasant” or “agreeable.” The viewer of the daffodils can’t be anything but happy and joyous at the sight of the field full of flowers.

From the fourth verse: “vacant” here means “empty of thought,” or “listless.” Alternatively, “pensive” means “deep in thought.” From now on, no matter which mood the narrator is in while at home, he/she can think about the daffodils and make himself/herself smile again.