From time to time, we all get a case of loneliness but Wordsworth may have found the cure. And its much simpler than you would expect. The main ingredient? Daffodils.
A Bad Case of Loneliness
We keep the feeling of loneliness hidden in the darkest corners of our heart with the hope of suppressing it, but loneliness is a sly and slippery emotion.
Loneliness has the habit of taking us by surprise.
Whether you’re by yourself or among people, there are those insurmountable instances where we feel utterly alone. When we search for our souls, that were once brimming with affability, we discover that an empty and endless abyss has replaced it. Isolation becomes nothing more than an unfillable void and everything ceases to have meaning.
Sometimes loneliness leaves as quickly as it came, other times we are not so lucky.
A Ray of Hope
If my gloomy image of loneliness was alarming, do not despair my dear reader! Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” has the answer to all our problems. For, hidden among metaphors and similes lies the solution for loneliness.
Before I begin this groundbreaking analysis, why don’t you read the poem for yourself. This is a good one to read out loud :
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 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.
The Meaning of it all
In essence, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” takes the reader on an epic journey into the galaxy. Even though the author is grounded physically (on his couch), their mind is in the celestial realm, far away from earth. The author transcends from being a lonely and isolated cloud to dancing among the stars with the daffodils.
Wordsworth’s clever and meaningful use of metaphor and simile delivers his message seamlessly. He shows the reader that when they are feeling lonely, simply thinking of a moment that brought them great joy will cure them of their mental hardships. How did Wordsworth accomplish such a feat? Let’s find out!
****Please note that I will be using the words metaphor and simile frequently, so if you are not familiar with these terms and do not know how to distinguish one from another, you might be interested in reading my post on it. Click here for a quick refresher. ****
Star Light, Star Bright
A notable simile appears in lines 7-9, which reads “Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the milky way, they stretched in never-ending line”.
The vehicle is the stars that shine on the milky way and the tenor is the large quantity of daffodils present. The basis for this comparison is that the milky way is enormous and seems to contain an infinite amount of stars (in reality, there is approximately 400 billion).
At that instant, it seemed to the author that there were as many flowers as stars in the milky way, and that the daffodils stretched to infinity.
What’s more, in line 10 the author specifies that the flowers were “along the margin of a bay” which is shaped like a crescent, similar to the shape of the Milky Way.
This simile also contained hyperbole, as in line 9 Wordsworth exaggerates the quantity of daffodils present, stating that they “stretched in never-ending line”.
This simile ties into the overall context of the poem, as the author who was feeling lonely and isolated, forgets their inner-conflict, upon seeing the breathtaking daffodils. The author was so entranced by the daffodils that they dared compare their quantity to the number of stars in the milky way.
This simile also implies that this experience was out of this world, and the author transports himself further into the galaxy, going from a cloud in the sky to residing with the stars in the milky way. As stars are always there to light the night sky, the memory of the daffodils are always in the author’s mind, to shed light on any dark times.
A memorable metaphor appears in line 6 and reads “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”. The vehicle is the action of dancing and the tenor is the movement of the daffodils in the wind. The basis for this comparison is when flowers sway in tune to the rhythm of the wind, they appear as though they are dancing.
This metaphor personifies the daffodils. It does so by transforming them into dancers which emphasizes the energy of the swaying flowers. Once again, this metaphor clearly demonstrates to the reader that the daffodils had a strong and positive impact on the author.
Dancing is considered to be an art and a very beautiful thing to witness, implying that the author found the movement of the daffodils a pleasure to watch.
As previously mentioned, there was a vast number of daffodils present and seeing so many flowers swaying collectively to the music of the wind must have been a breathtaking sight.
This beautiful image remained in the author’s memory and whenever they feel solitude creeping in, the dancing flowers fill them with happiness.
In addition, the metaphor of dancing is reused multiple times during the poem, as along the last few lines the author states that whenever they are lonely, their “heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils” and at that moment the author completes their transition from being a spectator to becoming a dancer themselves.
Wordsworth reminds the reader that whenever they are feeling lonely all they need to do is to recall a moment that brought them great joy, as the author remembers their daffodils.
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