I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

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What is the significance of the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"?

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William Wordsworth's 1807 poem epitomizes the work of the British Romantic poets. It could be said that their collective aim was to celebrate the power of the human imagination as a means of coping with life's troubles. The Romantics also possessed feelings of reverence for Nature, and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" reflects both of those values.

The speaker in Wordsworth's poem recalls embarking on a ramble and happening upon a massive field of daffodils along a bay. He is captivated with how they are "fluttering and dancing in the breeze" in a way that rivaled the beauty of the waves that lapped the shore.

The speaker marvels that the daffodils could only fill him with joy and that he can conjure that feeling again any time he wants to, especially when he is feeling empty or "pensive," by simply remembering the beauty of the daffodils.

The poem celebrates the transformative effects that nature can have on a person who is open to it.

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Wordworth's poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is "reputed to be the most anthologized poem in the world." That means that this particular poem has been included in more textbooks and collections of poetry and literature than any other poem, at least in the English language. The reason for this is that the poem is very simple and a prime example of English romanticism. The simplicity lies in the recollection of a moment when the poet was walking and saw a group of wild daffodils. He compares the flowers to dancers, an army and stars in the Milky Way. He even implies though the use of the word "host" that the flowers are almost divine in nature. This childlike wonder and exhaultation of nature enables Wordsworth to capture the spirit of the Romantic movement in this one short, simple poem. 

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Why did the poet write "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"?

Wordsworth wanted to recapture a moment in time in 1802 when he and his sister were walking along the riverbank and saw a few daffodils.  Then the expanse of daffodils came into full view as they walked nearer to the riverbank.

If Wordsworth were an impressionistic painter, he would have painted the scene from the position of being in the sky looking down on the riverbank and the field of daffodils.

As a poet, Wordsworth attempted to recapture the moment by giving the reader a "cloud's-eye" view of the expanse of color and beauty.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
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Why did the poet write "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"?

Wodsworth wrote this poem to recapture a day in 1802 when he went to the shore with his sister, and saw a line up of daffodils being touched by the wind, extending to an unusual distance, and giving the impression that all around was floating.

He explains:

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up— But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road . . .  [S]ome rested their heads on [mossy] stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway... —Rain came on, we were wet.

Hope this helps!

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What is your personal take on the poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"? Why does it appeal to you?

It is difficult for anyone else to help you with this question, because it asks your own personal opinion.  This means there is no right or wrong answer – it is simply what you think about the poem.  There are a thousand different reasons the poem might appeal to any one individual, and no one can tell you what you like about it but you. 

That being said, I can outline some of the more striking characteristics of the poem.  First, the image the poet conjures of thousands and thousands of yellow daffodils swaying in the breeze along the shores of a bay is stirring, to say the least.  And it is a beautiful concept, the idea of simply stumbling upon such a sight as one wanders through nature – an example of how life can reward you when you least expect it.  The field of daffodils is also a good example of how the smallest pleasures and surprises can have the strongest lasting effects on us, as human beings.  The speaker notes, “I gazed – and gazed – but little thought/What wealth the show to me had brought;” he was very taken with the sight of all the flowers, but he could not have predicted the extent to which it would affect him, for much later, “in vacant or in pensive mood” – in those little idle moments of the day – he would think back to that sea of daffodils and the thought would make him happy.  This is a wonderful, calming thought – that such small events can leave such lasting traces on our hearts.

This is a poem about the beauty and the healing benefits of nature, about how it never ceases to surprise and delight.  Even in the midst of our most vacant wanderings, we may stumble upon some bit of life that has a positive effect on us.  The poem is very hopeful, full of vivid imagery that, much like the daffodils themselves for the speaker, becomes imprinted on the brain, and can often be revisited for a smile or a thought of peace.

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