I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

Start Free Trial

What figure of speech is used in "continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the milky way"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The most obvious figure of speech in this extract is the simile. A simile compares one thing to another by straightforwardly describing it as being "like" or "as" the other thing. In this case, Wordsworth is comparing the continuity, or endlessness, of the daffodils to the continuity of stars in the Milky Way. He particularly refers to the Milky Way because the reader will probably recognize this as a particularly dense band of stars; therefore, we imagine the daffodils to be as populous and vivid as these stars.

Wordsworth also uses some particularly evocative language—"shine" being insufficient to convey what he sees before him, he also notes that the stars "twinkle"—to create more vivid imagery. We can picture in our minds how stars twinkle and seem to wink; likewise, the daffodils are imagined bowing and dipping their heads, bright and shining but not still.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is one of the simplest and most common figures of speech, a simile.

Similes make direct comparisons between two things, generally using the words "like" or "as," to make some characteristic of A more dramatically clear because it shares, in some way, that characteristic with B.

In your example from Wordsworth's poem, the "host of daffodils" is compared to the host of stars in the Milky Way: both present a vast, continuous view, and Wordsworth's daffodils benefit in our imagination by being compared to the multitudinous stars of the Milky Way. We can imagine that there must be a lot of them, in a great, continuous, "twinkling" mass!

Many of our most common expressions and cliches are similes—as white as snow, sing like a bird, as dumb as a post, and so on—but poets have a way of creating new and memorable similes that we often cherish:

Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table . . .

("The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," by T. S. Eliot)

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial