All I remember reading Daffodils (aka I wandered lonely as a cloud) when I was about 17 and thinking, “I don’t get it. It’s a poem about a guy remembering seeing some daffodils and being happy about it. So what?”
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 nay,
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.
Now at that age, it’s a pretty common response to a lot of poetry. And I was reasonably exceptional for my age and that I liked poetry and went on to major in English university. But Daffodils left me cold.
One of the things about poetry, is you have to read quite a lot of it to be able to understand it, so there’s a fair amount of stumbling around in the dark. It is particularly true of Shakespeare.
Nearly 60 years, later I still haven’t changed my opinion of Daffodils.
It’s not that I haven’t tried with Wordsworth, ( I’ve rendered The Prelude
widely regarded as Wordsworth’s greatest work.) and I have read a lot about the Romantics, the movement that Wordsworth belonged to and which included Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron, none of whom really do much for me. AlthoughOzymandias
is pretty good
Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats
The Romantic Movement which swept Europe towards the end of the 18th century was very much about art, music literature getting in touch with nature in the broadest sense so making an emotional response to daffodils was very much part of the genre. But for me this poem is purely descriptive and I don’t find it particularly satisfying.