In the first stanza, the poet sees a butterfly sitting motionless on yellow flower. He talks to it as if it is a human being, personifying it, and calling it "little Butterfly." First, he wonders at the butterfly's stillness, repeating, "motionless!" twice, the repetition and the exclamation points revealing how much he marvels at the creature's ability to stay still. Then, still speaking to it, he informs the butterfly of the "joy" it will experience when the breeze comes, and it lifts off again.
In the second and final stanza, he turns from the butterfly to himself and his own memories. He mentions that the orchards are "ours," meaning belonging to his sister and him. He also mentions that the flowers belong to his sister. Nevertheless, he invites the butterfly to come to this "sanctuary" anytime, and "fear no wrong!" He asks the butterfly to sit on a bough and listen as he and sister talk about summer times past, days when they were young, and one day seemed as long as twenty do now.
The poem is characteristically Romantic in that it depicts a simple scene in nature and shows a deep appreciation for the natural world. It is also Romantic in its nostalgia for childhood, captured in the longing for the time when a day seemed far longer than now. Finally, the poem expresses the memory of the strong emotion the poet experienced while gazing at a butterfly—to convey emotions recollected in tranquility (calm) was a chief reason for poetry, Wordsworth believed. He experienced joy at seeing a butterfly, and he communicates this to us.