Poems of the Land
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
- William Wordsworth
When telling people the name for this blog I am met mostly by two reactions (three if you count disinterest!). The most common emotion I can read on people’s faces is, I think, confusion. Surprise, perhaps, that my writing would be tied together by such a 'fluffy' title, I am met with blank faces and imagine images popping into their heads of teenagers with wanderlust tattoos determined to travel always and not ever get a ‘proper’ job. By stark contrast, on saying the name asiwandered, the second most common reaction is for people to quote poetry at me. More specifically, with great pride, huge grins appear and Wordsworth’s ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ is quoted at length and word perfectly. Since spontaneous poetry recitals now seem to spring from my conversations with alarming and fantastic regularity, I thought I’d give a little introduction to this particular poem and a few others from which I have been inspired to write.
To wander seems to be a very Wordsworthian thing to do. His wanderings are tied intimately to his wonderings. His writing appears to have been inseparable from the movement of his legs; like two sides of a coin, binding poetry to landscape through walking. Born in 1770 in Cumbria, the Lake District was the landscape where he felt most at home and where, it has been famously estimated, he racked up a staggering 175,000 miles of walking during his lifetime.
The concept of wandering resists haste. It encourages long journeys into terrains both familiar and new, and allows for an engagement with the landscapes that our fast-paced city-based society is perhaps losing. In particular the poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, epitomises this attitude to movement experience: the joy of seeing, walking and remembering the land.
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 “wealth” brought by the daffodils reveals itself to him after the moment - at unexpected moments, when one is not looking with intent but is suddenly able to see! The flashing brilliance and “bliss” found in the solitude of his walks, is vividly revealed and recreated in his memory, that we too may glimpse some of the pleasure he feels. What a gift, to impart some of that joy of landscape and nature.