Daffodils, a nature poem by William Wordsworth, is probably one of my earliest exposures to poetry. The tinge of nostalgia has always made this a very special poem for me. If I sat down to it, I can probably recall the exact setting of my classroom when I first read the opening lines of the poem:
That floats on high o’er vales and hills”
This was way before I knew anything about poetic form or metre. It was only many years later, thanks to the Wondering Minstrels, I found out about terms like iambs and trochees and understood why the poet went for o’er instead of o-ver. He obviously made the two syllable word into a single syllable to preserve the metre of the poem – iambic tetrameter, in this case. (An iamb is a metric foot that contains a short unstressed syllable followed by a long stressed syllable. Each line of this poem made up of four iambs and hence the tetrameter.)
The poem’s stanzas follow a simple ababcc pattern (the technical name of this form is a sextilla). The cc lines make for some really nice couplets,
“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
“I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought”
“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
I particularly love the dramatic way the poet describes his chancing upon the flowers. There he was, happy in his own company, traipsing through the country side, when his solitude was interrupted “all at once” by a “crowd” of daffodils. It was no gradual change of scenery for him. He mirrors the same in the last stanza, where, once again he is wallowing in his own company, and the daffodils “flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude”.
The other thing that strikes me is that the poet seems to have been quite a loner in his lifetime, seemingly taking immense pleasure from the company of nature rather than from that of fellow men. That would explain his long sojourns on his own in the countryside and the following two lines in the poem.
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company
The daffodils must have been quite a sight indeed, to have affected him so profoundly and to have moved him to write such a beautiful poem, that has withstood the test of time over so many generations.
Here is the poem in its entirety.
Daffodils – William Wordsworth
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.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.