Analysis of the Poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth
The poem “Daffodils” is also known by the title “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, a lyrical poem written by William Wordsworth in 1804. It was published in 1815 in ‘Collected Poems’ with four stanzas. William Wordsworth is a well-known romantic poet who believed in conveying simple and creative expressions through his poems. In English literature, Wordsworth was one of the pioneers in the development of the Romantic Movement, or romanticism, a movement that championed imagination and emotions as more powerful than reason and systematic thinking.
Nature was a guiding force to the romantic poet. Romanticism began in the mid-1700’s as a rebellion against the principles of classicism. It promoted subjectivity, emotional effusiveness, and freedom of expression. “Daffodils” is a lyric poem focusing on the poet’s response to the beauty of nature. It portrays a moment on April 15, 1802, when Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were walking near a lake at Grasmere, Cumbria County, England, and came upon a shore lined with daffodils. He is now looking back on how much of an impression it has had on him.
The poem consists of four stanzas, each of them being a sestet. The meter is iambic tetrameter, it is very even and regular. Each stanza has a cross rhyme in the first 4 lines and then ends with a rhyming couplet. The rhyme comes at the end of lines, it is exact and masculine. We know that the speaker is a poet because he tells us so in line 15. As we can judge by the first 2 lines, he is a typical romantic character, a lonely sensitive observer. He has a rich imagination, as he creates the image of dancing people around him out of the field with flowers.
He speaks in the third person, but we know that he speaks about himself. The tone of the poem is dynamic, it changes throughout the poem. We can observe it considering the plot structure. In the exposition the poet wanders around and with the help of simile we can feel how lonely he was, as the author compares himself with a cloud, which floats over vales and hills. The use of such words as “lonely” and “wandered”, which means walking with no purpose, creates a peaceful and sad tone. The inciting incident is the moment when he sees the line of daffodils. From here the tone starts to change into a joyful one.
The epithet “golden” creates a bright, sparkling image of precious flowers. Here we can see a gradation (a crowd-a host), one of the main tools which changes the tone throughout the whole poem. In the second stanza the author’s mood is rising, and the tone becomes more and more delightful. He personifies daffodils, showing them as a dancing crowd of people. He compares them to stars, using simile at the second stanza: continuous as the stars that shine… It brings the idea of brightness and plurality, also symbolizing the hope the lost man found watching that scene.
There’re hyperboles “never-ending line” and the one in the line “Ten thousand saw I at a glance”, that describe the plenty of daffodils that struck the poet. The climax happens at the 3d stanza. The author personifies waves in their dance as well, but they can’t out-do the daffodils. The peak of the author’s emotions is expressed with the help of spondee (two stressed words: be gay) and affective words glee, gay and the epithet jocund. The tone is very positive, optimistic and joyful.
The falling actions are the last 2 lines of the 3d stanza: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought. The repetition and series of dashes are used here to show the strength of the author’s feelings, he was rather shocked by the scene he was observing, and he couldn’t help just standing there and admiring. Denouement comes in concluding stanza, which is devoted to the author’s recollection of that magnificent event many years after. Here the setting shifts indoors, to the speaker’s couch. The “inward eye” is a metaphor for his memory.
The oxymoron “the bliss of solitude” shows his being in the state of melancholy, but he’s not unhappy about that, because the image of dancing daffodils coming to his mind makes him feel happy. The tone is calm again, but it is joyful at the same time. The poem has a light and delicate rhythm that reminds us of a dance. The image of the dance occurs in each of the four stanzas. The modifications of the metric pattern in the last line of the 1st and the 2d stanza (the meter changes into falling) make the picture more dynamic, imitating the dancing movements of the flowers.
The undoubted symbol in the poem are daffodils. The daffodil is one of the official emblems of Wales, a region in the south of England. These flowers are like little yellow people who keep the speaker company when he is feeling lonely. The beauty of them can always cheer him up, and he describes them in their joyful dance. Daffodils here are the symbol of natural beauty and represent in their dance the joy and happiness of living. So, this poem is typical for the Romantic movement, as it exposes the beauty of nature and its effect on human beings.