Daffodils, by William Wordsworth, is one of England’s best loved poems. Daffodils is also known by the opening line - I wandered lonely as a cloud. The poem encompasses much of Wordsworth’s mastery as a poet – his love of nature and the land, his ability to weave powerful and memorable imagery and his crafting of story in verse.
Daffodils herald spring in England, the large majority being deep yellow in colour, welcoming the sun that breaks through winter’s end. The inner part of the flower is often called a trumpet – appropriate for a flower that salutes the coming of spring. Daffodils blossom on hills and roadside verges, by rivers and streams, in parks and gardens, on common land. The traditional season for daffodils is March to April, though they have been known to appear in mild years as early as December.
The premise of the poem is simple – the poet, whilst wandering through landscape he loves – comes upon a crowd, a host of golden daffodils. Wordsworth enjoyed walking and would often walk for miles on his own, with his sister Dorothy or with friends including Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth discovers the daffodils under trees by a lake, and seems to feel their spirit as he describes them dancing in the breeze.
In the second verse the poet widens his vision, likening the blanket of flowers he has found to stars in the milky way; he also magnifies the vision of daffodils by claiming ten thousand saw I at a glance - the suggestion being there are so many daffodils they stretch for ever, impossible to count accurately if thousands can be seen in the blink of an eye. The milky way also contains stars beyond number, stretching beyond where the human eye can see.
The third verse prepares the reader for the turnaround in the final lines. It likens the dancing of the waves of the lake to the dancing of the daffodils, claiming that the flowers win the dancing contest. The poet talks of the joy he experiences in such a jocund company. He drinks his fill of the vision the daffodils give him, but little realises the wealth the experience will bring.
The final verse explores the joy the memory of daffodils brings when the poet lies in vacant or in pensive mood. The golden daffodils of the first verse have offered him wealth far richer than money, for in his memory, when he is alone as he was when he chanced upon them, his heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils.
Wordsworth’s Daffodils consists of four six-line verses with first and third, second and fourth and fifth and sixth lines – the latter rhymes, strengthening the end of each verse, include trees and breeze and glance and dance. The tightness of the wording and rhythm and the dividing of verses into clear chapters of a story have helped make Daffodils a poem that, over two centuries after the writing, continues to capture the heart of England.