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Wordsworth's Poem Daffodils—Introduction, Summary, Theme and Critical Appreciation

Introduction of the Poem:

The Romanic poet William Wordsworth's “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, also known as “The Daffodils” is probably his most famous lyrical work. The poem was written in 1804, inspired by an event on April 15, 1802. On April 15, 1802, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy went to their friends, the Clarksons, at Elsmere. When they were coming back to Grasmere, they saw a large number of golden daffodils growing on the bank of a lake Ullswater in the Lake District. They both were astonished by the mesmeric beauty of these daffodils which were fluttering and dancing with the light breeze. Inspired by this delightful spectacle Wordsworth composed this poem in 1804 and published it in 1807.

Wordsworth's Poem Daffodils—Introduction, Summary, Theme and Critical Appreciation
Wordsworth's Poem Daffodils—Introduction, Summary, Theme and Critical Appreciation


The original title of the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is merely the first line of the poem. It is somewhat misleading, as it suggests that there is something about the poet's loneliness in the poem. But the poem is all about the beauty of the daffodils and how they brought happiness to the poet. In the writing of this poem, Wordsworth drew freely on Dorothy's description of daffodils in her journal. Some of the very words like “tossed” used by Wordsworth in his poem, are taken from her description. Wordsworth depends on her sister's description as much as on his recollection of the joyful scene. Thus Dorothy's influence is clearly seen in the poem. 

The subject of the poem seems to be trivial and inadequate, but it becomes significant enough when the full symbolical value of the poem is realised. The whole action of the poem is the symbol of the poet's relation to eternity of which his experience of daffodils is merely an example.

Summary of the Poem:

Once, the poet was wandering aimlessly among hills and valleys like a lonely cloud floating in the sky. It was during this state of solitary wandering that he suddenly saw a large number of golden daffodils. They were spreading beside the lake, under the trees. They were swaying to and fro under the impact of blowing breeze. It seemed as if they were dancing with joy and happiness. They were numberless as the shining and twinkling stars on the Milky Way. They spread all along the side of the lake. At one glance the poet saw a huge number of daffodils waving their heads in joyful dance. 

The poet was highly captivated to the enchanting quality of the daffodils. The waves in the nearby lake seemed to be dancing and also sparkling due to the sun's rays falling on them, but the poet found that the beauty of thousands of daffodils surpassed the beauty of sparkling waves. The poet felt that he could not be anything but happy in such a jocund company of the daffodils. He gazed and gazed at them, little knowing what a great treasure of thought the flowers had brought to his mind. 

Whenever the poet lay restfully on his couch in pensive and vacant mood , the beautiful sight of the daffodils flashed upon his mental eye . This recollection was a source of great bliss in his solitary life. His heart was filled with pleasure at the recollection of the daffodils and began to dance like them.

Theme of the poem:

Wordsworth is mainly a nature poet and for him, there is nothing which is superior to and better than Nature. He breathes through with nature and finds solace and spiritual peace in it. In his opinion, nature has the solution for all the problems of mankind. It is through nature that he seeks salvation. The theme of the poem is based on the healing and refreshing power of nature. How easy it is for nature to lift the spirit and morale of the man. 

The last stanza of the poem is the most important part of the poem and is the essence of the poem. In this stanza, the poet speaks about the healing and refreshing effect of nature and also praises solitude. According to him, when one is in the state of solitude, one becomes retrospective and meditates on all the good and pleasurable moments which one had or which had happened to him -- in his life. These memories have a cheerful and lively effect on him. He greatly feels happy not only with himself but also with all that happened to him. The poet says that whenever he lies on his couch having nothing to do or in pensive mood, enjoying the solitude, the images of the daffodils flash upon his imagination. When this happens, the poet feels calm, refreshed, motivated and good about himself. This is how nature influences him. The memories of the daffodils fill his heart with pleasure and joy and he feels like dancing along with the daffodils. This shows the healing and refreshing effect of nature on the poet. 

Critical Appreciation of the Poem:


The poem entitled Daffodils is one of the most popular of Wordsworth's shorter poems. It is a beautiful piece of Nature Poetry of Wordsworth. It was written in 1804 and was first published in 1807. The poem shows Wordsworth as a poet and lover of Nature. It appears to be trivial and extremely simple in thought and meaning, but on a closer look, reveals a richness of thought and emotion. On April 15, 1802, William and Dorothy were returning to their home Grasmere after having paid a visit to their friends. On their way back to Grasmere, they walked past and saw a host of daffodils growing on the shore of the Lake Ullswater. The scene of the daffodils dancing in the breeze was so enchanting that both gave an account of it. The impact of the scene was lasting enough to enable Wordsworth to recall it when he wrote the poem two years later. The poem consists of the serene and tranquilizing influence of Nature over man absorbed in materialistic pursuits in this world. The sight of the beautiful daffodils fills the poet with ecstatic joy. The ordinary flowers instill in his receptive mind the deepest thought. The flowers furnish food for his future meditation. 

Thought - Content: 

In the first stanza the poet describes a time when he wandered over the valleys and hills, lonely as a cloud. Finally, he came across a crowd of daffodils stretching out over almost everything. He could see them fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 

In the second stanza, the poet goes into more detail about the daffodils. They reminded him of the Milky Way, because there were so many flowers packed together that they seemed to be never ending. The poet guessed that there were ten thousand daffodils which were tossing their heads in sprightly dance. In the third stanza the speaker compares the waves of the lake to the waves of daffodils and decides that even though the lake is sparkling, the daffodils win because they have more glee. He then comments that he, like any other poet, could not help but be happy in such a jocund company. He looked at the scene for a long time but while he was there he was unable to understand what he had gained from the experience.

In the fourth and final stanza, the poet describes what he gained from the experience. Afterwards, when he was lonely or feeling pensive, he could remember the daffodils, seeing them with his mind's eye and be content. 

Moral of the Poem: 

The poem shows that Nature has the solution for all the problems of mankind. Man finds great solace and spiritual peace in it. Nothing is superior to and better than Nature. It is through nature that man seeks salvation. There is great healing and soothing influence of Nature. Nature has the power to relieve man of the melancholy thoughts. The tranquilising influence of Nature on a mind disturbed by the cause and sadness of life, has been acknowledged in the poem. 

Form and Structure of the Poem: 

The poem is a lyric. It gives expression to a single emotion or feeling of joy in nature. It is quite short and musical. It appeals more to the heart than to the intellect. The poet appreciates the beauty of natural landscape, with his special focus on “a host of golden daffodils”. By the end of this lyrical poem, the poet's heart is filled with joy. The poem, obviously inspired by Wordsworth's stomping grounds, is well - loved because of its simple yet beautiful rhymes, and its rather sentimental topic. The poem consists of four six - lines stanzas , each of which follows aba bcc rhyme scheme and are written in iambic tetra - meter , giving the poem a subtle back - and - forth motion that recalls swaying daffodils . 

The Use of Imagery: 

By identifying himself with the image of a cloud – “I wandered lonely as a cloud” - the poet emphasises his oneness with nature. He pictures himself as part of the natural world, not separate from it. He drifts in harmony with the elements. As he floats cloud like, he almost immediately meets a host of golden daffodils and experiences joy. He has been lonely; they are a happy crowd that eases his feeling of solitude. “Ten thousand I saw in a glance”, says the poet. And as if they are people, they seem, as they blow in the wind, to be doing a “sprightly dance.” The poet feels close to the daffodils. As they wave in the breeze, more lively than the waves dancing on the nearby lake. The poet cannot help but feel “gay in such a jocund company”. The image of dancing daffodils fills him with joy. 

The Use of Figures of Speech: 

The poet has used the figure of speech simile in the first line of the first stanza when he compares himself to a wandering cloud that is away from the landscape. 

“I wandered lovely as cloud”.  (Simile) 

Then he again uses simile to describe the daffodils spread continuously like the shining stars that twinkle in the night sky. 

“Continuous as the stars that shine”.

The poet employs a few metaphors. Here are three metaphors:

1. " Tossing their heads in sprightly dance”.

(An unstated comparison of the movement of the daffodils in the wind to a dance).

2. “They flash upon that inward eye”.

(An unstated comparison between one's memory and an eye in the mind).

3. “In such a jocund company”.

(An unstated comparison between many daffodils and their being a cheerful, light - hearked group when one is in their presence).

The poet has used the figure of speech personification in the following to barge lines:

1. “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

(A cloud can obviously not wander or feel lonely - these are human attributes or actions).

2. “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.”

(A crowd of daffodils is an example of personification because human characteristics are given to the daffodils to suggest that they provide good company to someone who is lonely. The daffodils “flutter” and “dance” just like a merry group of people).

3. “Ten thousand saw I at a glance 
     Tossing their head in sprightly dance.”

(The poet imagines a huge group of daffodils tossing and dancing like human beings.)

4. “The waves beside them danced; but they 
      Out - did the sparkling waves in glee.”

(Here is another personification because the poet compares the daffodils to the “dancing waves”, stating that the daffodils brought so much joy that they outdid the waves).

5. “And then my heart with pleasure fills, 
    And dances with the daffodils.” 

(There is again personification which emphasises that whenever the poet feels alone, he continues to find solace in his memory of the company he kept with the daffodils). 

The poet has used the figure of speech hyperbole in the poem. A hyperbole is an exaggeration, an expanded statement meant to be understood as figurative rather than literal. The most glaring example of hyperbole in this poem is the person's statement regarding the number of daffodils. 

“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 poet of course could not have known the number of flowers that stood before him, especially since he only saw them “at a glance”. Also the line of daffodils could not have been really "never - ending". These statements are then not meant to relate the actual number of daffodils that the poet witnessed but, instead, the overwhelming effect of the expansive meadows of flowers. 

The poet has used the figure of speech alliteration in the following lines: 

1. “That floats on high o'er vales and hills;” 

2. “I gazed- and gazed - but little thought.”

3. “And dances with the daffodils.” 

The poet has used the figure of speech onomatopoeia. This is a figure of speech which creates sound to convey the sense. There is an instance of this figure of speech: 

“Beside the lake, beneath the trees 
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” 

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