Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry (3): Wordsworth’s Daffodils

While my last post focused on animals with two poems by American poet Elizabeth Bishop, this piece travels back in time and across the sea to England, just for a little flowering magic.

The father of Romantic poetry in English, William Wordsworth made poetry more accessible to the “common man” by purposely avoiding alienating vocabulary and using a less formal tone. Wordsworth published the poetry collection Lyrical Ballads with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798, influencing the verse of later Romantic poets such as John Keats, Lord Byron (George Gordon), and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

daffodil w light pool BW

The Daffodil Trail, Furnace Run Metro Park, Richfield, OH, 2004. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

One of Romanticism’s key characteristics is delight in nature. This poem emphasizes the impression of seeing thousands of flowers at once. If you have never been through a daffodil field, it’s quite something. We have a daffodil trail at a park on the border between the Summit County Metro Parks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park here in northeast Ohio. It’s a chance to see a brief explosion of blooms each April. I imagine tulip fields in Holland and elsewhere are similarly breathtaking in person.

In time for summer wild flowers as we look back to spring, this poem also offers a “twinkling” reminder (see stanza 2) to check out the Perseid meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere, which peaks on the early mornings of August 11, 12, and 13 this year.

Reminisce on former, take in current, and welcome future fields, or single stems, of flowers and stars. Star gazers might also enjoy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s short poem “The Evening Star.”


“I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” a.k.a. “The Daffodils”

William Wordsworth, 17701850

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.

                 - published in 1807

I felt comfortable sharing the entire poem because Wordsworth’s poetry is in the public domain.

If you haven’t already, see samples of Elizabeth Bishop’s excellent nature poetry featured previously as the second posted subject in the series.