Critical Essay on 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' by William Wordsworth

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The poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by romantic poet William Wordsworth, is in the form of lyric poetry and was first published in 1807. The poem describes a memorable day that the poet had and details how recalling that day brings him joy, even when he thinks of it at a later date. This essay will perform a close reading of the poem, focusing on voice, form, and imagery, as well as a stanza-by-stanza analysis. It will also seek to explore what literary techniques Wordsworth uses, the impact they have on the poem, and how they help to form a sense of place.

The meter of the poem is iambic tetrameter, as it has 4 feet in each line and 8 syllables per line. This meter is consistent throughout, which makes it easy to read. The poem is made up of 4 stanzas, each consisting of 6 lines. The rhyming scheme of each stanza is ABABCC, which is a quatrain, followed by a rhyming couplet. As used in the Shakespearian sonnet form, the use of a rhyming couplet at the end of each stanza makes each part feel complete, as well as resolved. The main themes of the poem are the relationships between nature and humanity, as well as memory and imagination, all of which are prominent themes in romantic poetry. The poem is in the first person, and the speaker of the poem is William Wordsworth himself, as he is recalling a personal experience. It is evidently clear throughout the poem that the speaker is the poet himself, not only because he refers to himself as ‘I’, but he even explicitly calls himself a poet in line 3 of the third stanza. This also allows the reader to know that the speaker is taking them on a personal journey with them.

In the first stanza, Wordsworth begins by setting the scene and recalling the memory of the day. He describes himself in line 1 as “wandering lonely as a cloud”, which could mean that he was walking alone, however, it could also have a deeper meaning, using the simile to liken himself to a cloud. In this, he could be implying that he feels as though he is part of nature, which ties in with the main themes of this poem. Then, in line 3 he sees a “crowd” of daffodils, which he describes as “dancing in the breeze”. The personification of the daffodils through words such as ‘crowd’ and ‘dancing’ once again links humanity with nature, likening the flowers to people as he likened himself to a cloud.

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In the second stanza, Wordsworth uses another simile to compare the stretch of daffodils to the stars in the Milky Way, due to the fact that it seems like they stretch on forever. In this stanza, in true romantic poetry style, the poet attempts to put an image in the reader’s mind of the sheer beauty of this scene, stating that he can see ten thousand daffodils, only at a glance. In line 6 of the stanza, he once again personifies the daffodils, comparing them blowing in the breeze to a “sprightly dance”. In the third stanza, the poet states that the “sprightly dancing” daffodils, mentioned in the previous stanza, even outshine the “sparkling waves” behind them. Here he also personifies the waves as dancing, further merging the lines between nature and humanity, allowing his imagination to bring nature to life. It is in line 3 of this stanza that the speaker identifies himself as a poet, stating that “a poet could not but be gay”, in reference to the happiness he feels due to the encounter. In line 4, he calls the daffodils “jocund company”, which contrasts with the loneliness he felt at the beginning of the poem. He goes on to say that at the time, he had “little thought” as to how important the scene was to him and what a profound impression it would leave him with.

In the fourth and final stanza, the setting of the poem changes. Wordsworth reflects on that final sentiment of the previous stanza and notes how when he is feeling in a thoughtful mood, or even a “vacant” one, the image of the daffodils flashed in his mind’s eye, and it brings him joy and “solitude”. It is in this stanza that the purpose of the poem is seen, as it is not just a poem about the daffodils h saw, but about the deep-rooted impact that the experience had on him.

It is through the use of imagery in this poem that Wordsworth really takes the reader on the experience with him. There is a wealth of imagery centered around nature in this poem, including the daffodils, as well as the trees, lake, bay, and waves. With his vivid descriptions of the “host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees”, the reader can begin to build the image in their own mind and gain a sense of place for the poem. In creating imagery in this way, Wordsworth creates an experience for the reader akin to when he envisages the experience in his own mind’s eye.

In conclusion, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ is a lyrical poem in a typical romantic style, which takes the reader on an experience with the speaker, who is also the poet, to a beautiful encounter with an expanse of daffodils. The main themes of the poem are the relationship between nature and humanity, as well as memory and imagination. Wordsworth conveys these themes by personifying nature, such as the daffodils and the waves, making them come to life and dance. In addition, he also likens himself to nature, using a simile to compare himself to a cloud. In doing this he blurs the lines between imagination in reality and allows the reader to see what he is seeing in his own mind’s eye.

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Critical Essay on ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud-by-william-wordsworth/
“Critical Essay on ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth.” Edubirdie, 15 Nov. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud-by-william-wordsworth/
Critical Essay on ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud-by-william-wordsworth/> [Accessed 17 Apr. 2024].
Critical Essay on ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Nov 15 [cited 2024 Apr 17]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-essay-on-i-wandered-lonely-as-a-cloud-by-william-wordsworth/
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