I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

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What does the third stanza of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" mean?

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In this poem, the speaker, a poet, recalls wandering through nature by himself. He imagined himself as a cloud and found "others" in a crowd of daffodils. The daffodils are personified, as are other aspects of nature in this poem, and they provide company to the lonely wanderer/speaker. This is not a simple case of (pathetic fallacy) attributing human characteristics and feelings to inanimate objects. Wordsworth does use personification but only to show a cosmic connection between himself and the life and movements in nature.

In the first three stanzas, the speaker experiences these images in nature passively, as if the wind took him there (as a cloud). So, in the third stanza, he continues to perceive the daffodils and notes that the dancing daffodils are a more profound sight than the "sparkling waves." The speaker, a poet, was happy (gay) to be in such cheerful (jocund) company (the company of the daffodils). However, still experiencing these images passively, he doesn't fully appreciate what he is seeing:

I gazed--and gazed--but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

In the fourth stanza, the poet remarks that he appreciates the daffodils even more in retrospect, in memory. When he is in a nostalgic/happy or melancholy mood (vacant or pensive), he recalls the "company" of the daffodils and this brings bliss to his solitude.

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In stanza three of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" what are some possible different interpretations to it?

This poem is pretty straightforward, without much sub-text or hidden, secret meaning to it.  Wordsworth is simply describing a happy memory that he had, of a field of daffodils.  That memory keeps him contented when he is alone and daydreaming, perhaps lonely and sad.  It brings him joy.

In stanza three, I can guess what you are getting at, so let me just clarify a couple of things.  The part that I am assuming is in question is the following:  "A poet could not but be gay/in such a jocund company."  First of all, gay, in this sense, means happy.  Using gay to describe sexual orientation did not surface in popular culture until recently.  Poets, novelists, playwrights, and many other artists, and even the people as a whole used the word gay to mean happy.  It did not have the connotation that it does for us.  If Wordsworth had written this poem 2 years ago, and purposely picked that word, then that would definitely be an argument that could be supported.  But given the time period and vocabulary at that time, the most defensible interpretation is that the daffodils are a bright, happy sight that makes those who view it happy also.  I hope that helped; good luck!

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