Sunday Poetry: I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud, by William Wordsworth

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

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 leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but 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.

– by William Wordsworth
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This little poem has almost ruined poetry for generations.

It has been satirized on Rocky and Bullwinkle, on the Simpsons, and, less famously, by hundreds of school children. Why? Because it’s simple, a bit archaic in language, over-dramatized, and it’s been forced upon children as a memory exercise for generations. Who can love a poem after stumbling over “jocund” and “my heart with pleasure fills”? What plain-speaking human doesn’t lose patience with the linguistic contortions of “Ten thousand saw I” and “A poet could not be but gay”?

For years, I had it confused in my own mind with the botanically-imperfect poem presented in “Our Gang” – skip ahead to 8:44 if you’re too busy to enjoy some classic TV:

All that said, though, the poem is not as awful as it seems in the memory of most. Go ahead and read it, but the real daffodils beginning to bloom in our neighborhood are a lot more enjoyable.

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