‘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.’
Whenever I read these lines, I’m reminded of my golden days–much like the golden daffodils that pleases the soul of the poet during his tranquil moments. This was one of the first English poems that I had read in school, and I instantly fell in love with it. Back in those times, my innocent mind, introduced to English poetry for the first time, and that too of William Wordsworth, had felt thrilled to imagine thousands of yellow flowers tossing in the wind.
I had always thought that if life ever presents me with such a heavenly sight, indeed I would feel blessed forever. Little did I know that not the sight, but this poem would serve that purpose, because my ordinary eyes would have never seen what William Wordsworth had seen in them.
No wonder he was known as the Supreme Worshipper of Nature. His ‘inward eye’ could perceive what he had termed as ‘life of things’. To him, those daffodils are not just flowers, rather they are heavenly beings–like a host of angels, like stars in the sky, like the Infinite Being existing inside all living and non-living beings. Watching the daffodils flutter and sway in the wind makes him feel a sublime joy.
On 15th April, 1802, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy reached a place strewn with daffodils. The sight stirred the poet’s mind and his emotions took the form of this beautiful verse. The first version was published around 1804-1807 in the book ‘Poems in Two Volumes’, and later a revised version, the one we read here, was published in 1815.
I’m not a litterateur who is going to present you with explanations, or discuss the themes. I’m simply an admirer of nature poetry, and that too especially of William Wordsworth. I feel an urge to share how I feel, as a reader, when I read this poem. I’m one of those people who swoon over poetry. If you too, like me, are a lover of romantic poetry, I’m sure you will understand.
Since I had started reading Wordsworth’s poems, I could never ignore the ethereality of everything around me. My sister, who continued studying English Literature, had read the poem to me. She talked about Pantheism, and it felt like waking up, like a realization of something which had always been there and I never paid any attention. It was like falling in love with the trees, the sky, the flowers, clouds, grass, rivers, birds. I wanted to drink that all in–all the beauty and the life.
I proceeded to read ‘The Solitary Reaper’ and ‘Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ and felt ecstatic every time. I even picked up a pretty old poetry book from my sister’s collections, put a cover on it and carefully kept it with myself so that I could read Tintern Abbey whenever I wished.
The sight of daffodils, to the poet, is pure joy and wealth for eternity. He is spiritually elevated to a higher realm where only happiness exists.
Reality is rarely kind to the heart of a poet. When reality dawns, it hits hard. The poet had his own journey through love, loss and setbacks and in his own words, ‘the dreary intercourse of daily life.’ The memory of the daffodils is a treasure. When he is lonely, he recalls the memory. It rescues him out of his pain and puts him in a state of happiness. The daffodils are his companions of solitary hours.
I have sometimes wondered, what we perceive as reality is perhaps not real.The struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows are never permanent, but the memory of daffodils is permanent.
Sometimes in the course of my life, when I lose my way, I’m always brought back to my true self if I read one of William Wordsworth’s eternally beautiful poems. It amazes me how the words written centuries ago become so intimate to our hearts. Perhaps, amidst this harshness of reality, people like us are alive because Wordsworth had gifted us a utopian world full of joyous daffodils dancing inside our minds.
(Painting of Daffodils: My own work with watercolour on paper.)