english literature

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I wandered lonely as a cloud

An Analysis of William Wordsworth's Poem

William Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is a lyrical poem, which reveals the speaker's state of mind. A natural scene represents a description of the mental process, which the speaker undergoes, where he, the plants and his surroundings unite. The poem is written in a figurative language, combining images, similes and words that signify mood and atmosphere to reflect the changes in the speaker's position. Each stanza shows a different perspective of the narrator's view toward his surroundings, ultimately describing the beauty in nature. He captures the scene and the attractiveness within in his mind, which he will forever cherish, using it in a time of need. The speaker depicts his account with the scenery around him and escapes reality through it.

"I wandered lonely as a cloud" opens with the narrator describing his action of walking in a state of worldly detachment; "As lonely as a cloud / that floats on high o'er vales and hills," (Lines 1-2). Wordsworth uses a simile to open the poem, which the speaker uses to describe his process of wandering around aimlessly, showing he has no purpose in his actions. Although the speaker's true thoughts are never exposed, his description leaves the reader to believe he is in dream-like state, unconcerned with the immediate circumstances with which he finds himself. Wordsworth perhaps uses these first two lines to depict the dispassionate and detached way we live our lives, where we fail as emotional creatures to appreciate the beauty in everyday things. Wordsworth's "lonely cloud" is our own impersonal perception of the world in which we ignore the emotional sustenance that is directly on earth by floating miles above it. As the speaker is walking he notices, "A host, of golden daffodils;/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze," (Lines 4 and 6). These daffodils become much more than mere flowers; they are a symbol of natural beauty and symbolize a life full of experience and sensation. Their flutter and dance in the breeze represents the joy and happiness of living a fulfilling life.

The idleness generated by the verb "wandered" is erased in line three when the speaker notices the "crowd" or "host of daffodils." The suggested personification of the massed flowers is made definite in the end of the stanza where they are described as "dancing in the breeze." This puts the speaker physically there and no longer is the he aloof or distant. The prepositions used in line five, "beside the lake" and "beneath the trees", locate the speaker directly on Earth and makes the poem realistic. The daffodils are not just yellow but costumed in rich gold for their performance. He is actively among them and no longer at the elevated remove mentioned in the opening lines.

Wordsworth's second stanza is noteworthy for its indulgence in hyperbole. No hillside can realistically contain as many flowers as there are stars in the galaxy; a "never-ending line" (Line 9) does not exist on Earth; a glance that takes in ten thousand flowers is similarly fanciful. These overstatements depict the narrator's excitement and joy over the nature in which he is surrounded. He succumbs to the power of this spontaneous overflow of emotion and feels that his heart is full of pleasure because of it. The speaker describes the daffodils as "tossing their heads in sprightly dance," showing that their effortless, lively nature has touched him. These images all portray how wonderfully alive the environment is.

The third stanza expands to include the waves of the bay whose dance movements are shadowed by the lively daffodils. The speaker personifies both the daffodils and the waves in a melancholy tone, which makes them sound more intriguing. "A poet could not be but gay," (Line 15) is a reminder of the speaker's present remoteness that he had to surrender to the glee of the light-hearted company. He is not involved in the dance movements but feels enriched by the experience; "what wealth the show to me had brought." (Line 18) The speaker realizes that the wealth he had they do not, although they live a joyous, spirited life.

The concluding stanza returns to the lonely, empty cloud of line one. However, the narrator has undergone change by his imaginative experience involving dancing daffodils and the accompanying bay waters. This occurrence has left a hefty, lasting impression on him. The earlier loneliness has now been replaced by a blissful solitude. This pleasure has been brought about by what he has imaginatively created and is able to summon to his mind's eye. The speaker takes complete and ultimate joy out of simple objects to which most people take for granted. When "they flash upon that inward eye" (Line 21) he remembers the good he himself has and his "heart with pleasure fills/ and dances with the daffodils" (Lines 23-24) as he dreams of being as grateful as they are. The speaker suggests that one needs to be in a perfect state of mind in order to hear the voice of nature and to truly embrace it.

The peace of mind and tranquility in which man seeks in life resides in the identification with nature, the image in which Wordsworth portrays in "I wandered lonely as a cloud." This admiration for nature brings peace to the narrator's mind, even long after the original experience is over. The sights of nature amaze the poet because they are not static like a painting, but they are alive with motion. He becomes one with the serene environment that surrounds him; he allows himself to be completely consumed himself by it and change with it.


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