Old School Sundays: William Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils”

*Note to my loyal readers: I apologize for “disappearing” this past month. The reason for my temporary absence will hopefully explain itself in this post.

Nichole → in Landscape

I’m not sure when I first encountered Wordsworth’s ode to the Lake District, “The Daffodils,” but I was struck immediately by its tight rhyme scheme and peaceful vibes. To anyone who’s ever gotten pleasure from taking a simple walk in nature, these words can be truly resonating:

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.

As far as poetry goes (yes, even the “romantic” kind) this can seem simplistic. What is the speaker really saying after all?

I saw some daffodils. There were pretty. I think about them often.

But it’s more than that. The sharp description in the second stanza indicates that the sight of these flowers reverberated deeply with the poet. The image was so sublime, so breathtaking, that it imprinted itself in the mind as a regular reminder of peace.

And essentially that very notion (reminder of peace) is always what I’ve taken from the poem. I once came across a bunch of forget-me-nots at a nature reserve called “The Celery Farm” nearby where I grew up. I remember being so taken by the sight of these starkly blue & purple flowers that in the moment I understood where Wordsworth was coming from.

Furthermore, I believe “The Daffodils” also calls for a celebration of solitude, which, unfortunately seems to be losing its relevance in this hectic, fly-by-night world. Wordsworth’s poem illustrates that at one time, solitude was something to be cherished, something to enrich the soul.

In my personal life I thrive on solitude. I yearn to visit quiet places with pretty things to look at—nature sanctuaries, public parks, and state reservation sites. And yes, I like to go to the quiet hotspots alone, by myself, solo, “stag,” or whatever.

It is only through solitude do our inner longings reveal themselves, does our state of consciousness rise. Wordsworth teaches us that we can hold onto these moments of pleasure by taking “mental snapshots” of something we see that is beautiful, whether it may be a babbling brook, a flock a geese in a perfect ‘V’ formation, a lone buttercup, a swath of violets, or a school of minnows. These are the things that thrive around us in this world. Through solitude we can become connected as one.

-See more Wordsworth poems here.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Old School Sundays: William Wordsworth’s “The Daffodils”

  1. This is one of my all-time favorite poems – one of the few I’ve memorized. I think, too, it is a reminder to appreciate what we see around us and to take a moment to take it all in. I love that you wrote about this poem on a day when I’ve been gardening and thought of it as well!

  2. I was smiling as I read your post, because I’m pretty sure I know exactly what you’re getting at. Those times alone with our thoughts are like a well into our spirit, and spending them in lovely places seems to enhance the meaning in one’s life. And, not surprisingly, finding some alone time often yields fun discoveries in the story department!

    It’s good to see you back here! I miss your thought-provoking posts. 🙂

    • Yes…it definitely gets the story conveyor belt going! Sorry for not posting for so long…I’m glad, but not glad that you missed my posts 🙂 It actually feels so natural and good to get back into this. It’s like I never left!

  3. Beautiful post, Katie. I think you capture perfectly what this poem is all about. I feel the same way too in nature, and writing about it help. to capture and relive the moment again and again. My favorite Wordsworth poem is “Intimations of Immortality.”

    • Thanks, Deborah! I love being in nature as well, and this poem always helps me remember to spot something that I care to hold in my mind’s eye when I’m ready to go home. I’ve never read “Intimations of Immortality.” I probably should 🙂

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