William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' Poem

Also known 'I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,' it's his most famous poem

Sea of yellow and orange daffodils
Olivia Bell Photography / Getty Images

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a British poet who is known, along with friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for writing the collection "Lyrical Ballads and a Few Other Poems." This set of poems embodied a style that was a break from the traditional epic poetry of the time and helped to launch what became known as the Romantic era.

Wordsworth's preface to the 1798 publication includes his famous argument in favor of "common speech" within poetry so that they would be accessible to more people. Poems from "Lyrical Ballads" include Coleridge's best-known work, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and one of Wordsworth's more controversial pieces, "Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey."

Wordsworth's most critically-acclaimed work is the massive poem "The Prelude," which he worked on throughout his life and which was published posthumously.

But it's perhaps his simple musing on a field of yellow flowers that became Wordsworth's best-known and most-recited poem. "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" was written in 1802 after the poet and his sister happened upon a field of daffodils during a walk. 

Life of William Wordsworth

Born in 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria, Wordsworth was the second of five children. Both his parents died when he was young, and he was separated from his siblings, but later reunited with his sister Dorothy, with whom he remained close for the rest of his life. In 1795 he met fellow poet Coleridge, beginning a friendship and collaboration that would not only inform his work but his philosophical outlook as well.

Both Wordsworth's wife Mary and his sister Dorothy also influenced his work and his outlook. 

Wordsworth was named England's Poet Laureate in 1843, but in a strange twist of fate, ended up not writing anything while he held the honorary title. 

Analysis of 'I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud'

This poem's simple and straightforward language doesn't have much in the way of hidden meaning or symbolism but reflects Wordsworth's deep appreciation for nature. Before graduating from college, Wordsworth went on a walking tour of Europe, which inspired his interest in natural beauty as well as the common man. 

Complete Text

Here is the complete text of William Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud" aka "Daffodils" 

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.
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Khurana, Simran. "William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' Poem." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/quotes-about-daffodils-2831299. Khurana, Simran. (2020, August 27). William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' Poem. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/quotes-about-daffodils-2831299 Khurana, Simran. "William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' Poem." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/quotes-about-daffodils-2831299 (accessed March 30, 2023).