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I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud

Abstract: William Wordsworth, as the leading figure of the English Romantic Movement in poetry, has made great contribution in poetic theory. His poetic beliefs and achievements have always been the focus of literary studies. In this paper, his most representative poem “ I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is closely examined to demonstrate how Wordsworth applies his poetic principles to his own creations, especially how Wordsworth realize the fusion of reality and  strong emotion in this poem by using his great imagination.

Key Words: William Wordsworth, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, poetic principles, language, imagination William Wordsworth is the leading figure of the English romantic poetry, the focal voice of the romantic period. The most important contribution he has made is in the field of poetic theory. He thinks that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”, and poetry originates from “emotion recollected in tranquility”. His poetic principles are well illustrated in the preface to Lyrical Ballads (Wordsworth, p. 59):  “The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain coloring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement. ” Here, we can see that Wordsworth actually sets the principles for poetic writing in three aspects: a) the raw material—the scenes and events of everyday life; b) the language—speech of ordinary people; and c) the creation process—using imagination to realize the fusion of the description of the scenes or events with expression of inward state of mind.

These principles help to crumble the theoretical foundations of the classical school of English poetry, rejecting the emphasis on the form and an intellectual approach that drained poetic writing of strong emotion, and also inspire a new generation of poets. Therefore, the preface to Lyrical Ballads is regarded as the manifestation of the English Romantic Movement in poetry, and Wordsworth the father of English modern poetry. Wordsworth, for the keen love of nature expressed in his poems, is also labeled as a “worshipper of nature” by many critics. He can penetrate to the heart of things and give the reader the very life of nature. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is one of his masterpieces on nature, which can take us to the core of his poetic beliefs.

It is also one of the most anthologized poems in English literature. Thus, in the following, I will examine the poem in detail by reference to Wordsworth’s poetic principles. First, let’s look at the subject matter of this poem. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is based on recollections of the Ullswater scene described by Dorothy Wordsworth, William Wordsworth’s sister, in April 1802. At that time, Dorothy, William and their friends went for a walk along the river. Then they saw a few daffodils close to the waterside, when they went along there were more and more, and at last, they saw a long belt of daffodils along the shore, “they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing.

There was here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers a few yards higher up; but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity, unity and life of that one busy highway”. (Bloom, p. 276) They were all intoxicated at this scene. Then when returning home, Dorothy recorded this scene in her journal, while Wordsworth recollected the same scene in tranquility and wrote this poem a full two years afterwards. Therefore, it is clear that the raw matter of this poem is just a large bed of wild daffodils beside a lake, agitated by a strong, cold spring wind. And it is the very thing Wordsworth is interested, a very commonplace scene in human life,  Then we come to the language of this poem.

Except for a few literary or poetic words (“vales”, “jocund”, and “oft”), the poem is written throughout in plain language employed by ordinary people in their daily life, thus makes his poem easy to understand. This is also in accordance with his own poetic beliefs—to bring his language near to the real language of men. But one point should be pointed out that what Wordsworth means by stating that speech of ordinary people is preferred in poetic writing is not that writing a poem is to copy word by word the words uttered by the ordinary people. I think, Wordsworth’s statement is made just in view of lexical choice. As we all know, each type of poetry, whether it is a sonnet, or a blank verse, or an ode is restricted in form to a certain degree.

In addition, a good poetry attributes a lot to the high quality in its linguistic aspect, including not merely lexical choice, but also phonetic choice, rhetoric devices employed, choice of sentence structure, etc. , which exert a great influence on the information conveyance and the meter of a poem. Actually, Wordsworth has suggested this point in the above quoted passage by saying “a selection of language really used by men”. In other words, the language is selected not only from the speech of ordinary people, but also to fit the information conveyance and metrical arrangement of the poem. Then let’s see how Wordsworth fulfills this requirement in this poem.

This poem is written basically in iambic tetrameter. And it is divided into four stanzas with the rhyme scheme as: ababcc for each stanza. To be more specific, in each stanza, there are three rhyming couplets: the first line and the third line, the second line and the fourth line, and the last two lines, thus making the poem goes smoothly, harmoniously and rhythmically. In other words, the poem acquires aesthetic value in prosody. Besides this, in phonological level, there are other features contributing the excellence of this poem, such as the arrangement of the stress, and the phonetic choice. As above-mentioned, the poem is basically written in iambic tetrameter.

However, if the author is consistent throughout the poem in using this pattern, it may make the poem sound dull and solemn, thus not in keeping with the intention of the author to describe the brisk dancing of the daffodils. For this reason, the author makes some adjustments in certain places. For example, in the last line of the first stanza (“Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”), there are only three stressed syllables: /t /, /si / and /bri:/. And such adjustment in respect of the stress skillfully conveys the change in the poet’s state of mind: just when the poet wandered as a cloud solitarily, a bed of daffodils came into his view, make him enlivened and exhilarated. Another example comes from the last line of the second stanza (“Tossing their heads in sprightly dance”), here, the first foot turns to be a trochee.

And this variation reinforces the movement expressed by the verb, “toss”, delineates vividly the scene that the daffodils raise their heads gaily in the breeze, thus makes the whole sentence more expressive, and at the same time, conveys the uncontrolled passion of the author at that moment. In addition, in this poem, the author makes great efforts in the phonetic choice. For example, among the stressed syllables, in the first stanza, there are a lot of long vowels and diphthongs, thus making the tempo of the poem slow down; while in the second stanza, the short vowels assume a dominant position in the distribution of vowels, thus speeding up the pace of the poem.

This change, obviously, is in accordance with the change in the tone of the poem. In the first stanza, the poet wandered lonely as a cloud over the vales and hills, and came across suddenly a host of daffodils, so the movement is slowly and aimlessly, and the basic tone of this stanza is carelessness, or even lethargy. Thus the tempo should be slow. However, in the second stanza, the poet focuses on the description of the sprightly dancing daffodils in the wind, the basic tone is briskness and rapture, so the tempo now should be quickened. Therefore, it is clear that both metric arrangement and phonetic choice are important for the expression of the author’s personal feeling in the poem.

Actually, there are another important factor playing an indispensable role in information conveyance in poetry, namely, the syntactic structure. For example, the second line of stanza one begins with “when all at once”, the adverbial clause of a very long sentence running on in the four lines. In this way, the shift in the author’s attention is clearly expressed, and at the same time, the following description on the daffodils is made compact, thus can make a strong impression on the reader. In the second stanza, the adverbial (“Continuous as the stars that shine/ And twinkle on the milky way”) of the main clause “they stretched” is also put at the beginning. The purpose here is just to highlight the abundance and beauty of daffodils, which is the central task of this stanza.

Certainly, in most cases, the rhyme pattern of the whole poem may also influence the poet’s choice of sentence structureThen, we come to the punctuation marks of this poem. They also contribute to the success of the poem. Here is an example. In the fifth line of the third stanza (“I gazed –and gazed –but little thought”), two dashes in this line naturally slow down the tempo. Facing these beautiful daffodils, the poet is intoxicated and cannot help lingering his eyes on them, and simultaneously, he seems to be lost in thought, pondering over the true meaning of these daffodils to himself. These two actions, gaze and ponder, both continuous and time-consuming, so the tempo here should be slow.

And the employment of the dashes is just the proper way to achieve this effect. Finally, the use of rhetoric devices also adds beauty to the poem, especially the use of alliteration. Alliteration is a commonly used device in poetic writing, and it can make the poem more expressive and musical. In this poem, it is used in several places. For instance, in the fourth line of stanza one, “beside” and “beneath” form alliteration. It strengthens the connection between the two places, and moreover makes the whole line more compact by repeating the sound. Additionally, “stars” and “shine” in the first line of stanza two, and “dances” and “daffodils” in the last line of this poem, also form alliteration.

The above analysis reveals that Wordsworth really attaches great importance to and makes great efforts in the diction of the poem, whether in phonological level or in syntactic level. And he displays fully his exceptional skills in using the language freely in this poem. He deliberates on the selection of language, bearing the principle that employing the plain words in his mind, and ultimately makes his poem simple in language but graceful in style. At last, we come to the test of the third principle by examining this poem: In the creation process, imagination is needed to realize the fusion of the description of the scenes or events with expression of inward state of mind.

Perhaps, the most obvious point which shows Wordsworth’s imagination is to link the daffodils to other objects in nature—stars and waves, thus securing the extension in space, consequently stressing the abundance of the daffodils on the one hand, and on the other hand highlighting the beauty of the daffodils by virtue of simile and contrast. Then in the following, we intend to appreciate the poet’s great skills in employing imagination in poetic writing by examining the poem throughout carefully. At the beginning, the poet wandered lonely as a cloud. Here the symbol or image of “cloud” is introduced to us from the poet’s mind. And it may be regarded as the first fusion of reality and mind, though it bears no relation to the dominant thing in the passage, daffodils.

We say it is the fusion in that it makes it possible for us to assume that the poem at the beginning may be in the low spirit, or filled with joy, but a joy somewhat solemn, somewhat cold and remote. And it is the starting point of his later change in mood. Then the image of “daffodils” is presented directly. (“I saw a crowd / A host, of golden daffodils). The second stanza is ostensibly introduced merely to reinforce the idea of number (“continuous” echoing “crowd” and “host”), but of course there are other meaningful parallels. “Stars” looks back to “golden”, and “twinkle” echoes “fluttering”. Certainly, imagination plays a role here by reference to stars.

Then, the third stanza is obviously to reinforce the idea of dancing, but actually reinforces also the idea of number (waves are always numberless); and “sparkling” looks back to “twinkle”, and back of that to “fluttering”. The appearance of a new image “waves” also originates from the poet’s imagination. Here, the progress of fusion, or the progress toward explicit identification of the symbol is gradual. First we have “fluttering” (literal: the flowers are self-moved); then “tossing their heads in sprightly dance”. (The flowers are self-moved and having a wonderful time. “Dance” is the key word: you will have noticed that it occurs in either the last or the first line each of the four stanzas. ) Finally, but not until the third stanza is reached, we get the quite explicit series “glee”, “gay”, “jocund”, “pleasure”. Until now, the fusion is conspicuous.

He is enlivened by the sensation of gaiety and lightheartedness represented by the dancing daffodils, yields to it, and finds it good. In the last stanza, he states clearly the wealth the memory of this emotional experience leaves to him: ever after he can derive refreshment from the memory, and it has become a kind of comfort for him. It is shown clearly in the above analysis that imagination is indeed an important ingredient to the popularity of the poem. Without imagination, those images cannot enter the poem; without the vivid and expressive images, the poem is certain to lose his flavor. In summary, the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” can serve as a good example to illustrate Wordsworth’s poetic beliefs and achievements.

The poet’s individual sensation of enjoyment, in this instance, is originated from the commonplace scene of dancing daffodils. And after a two-year period of tranquil contemplation, he transplants the feeling into the poem in a plain but deliberately-selected language. During the writing process, the fusion of reality and emotion is well realized by the use of imagination. And there lies the power of this poem, for in this way it gives an unexpected splendor to a familiar and commonplace scene from common life. Furthermore, his deliberate simplicity and refusal to decorate the truth of experience are really successful in producing a kind of pure and profound poetry which no other poet has ever equaled. Bibliography 1. Bloom, Harold, ed.

Romanticism and Consciousness. New York: Norton, 1970. 2. Gilpin, George H. Critical Essays on William Wordsworth. Boston, Mass. : G. K. Hall, 1990. 3. Pinion, F. B. A Wordsworth Companion. London: Macmillan, 1984. 4. Wordsworth, William. Preface to Lyrical Ballads, With Pastoral and Other Poems. In The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton, 1986. 5. ???. ??????????.?? :????? ,1990. 6. ????.????????????.?? :??????? ,1984. 7. ???. ????????. ?? :????????? ,2000. 8. ??? ,????. ?????????.?? :?????????? ,1987. 9. ??? ,???.????????.?? :??????? ,1998 ?:????? http://www. 11665. com/Foreignlanguage/others/201103 :????? ??? http://www. 11665. com/Foreignlanguage/

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