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.
Wordsworth penned some exquisite short poems (eg Song and Stepping Westward) and sonnets (eg The World Is Too much With Us and Composed Upon Westminster Bridge), and a variety of longer, more discursive poems which are nothing short of sublime (eg Ode and Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey). The best passages in his best poems remain unsurpassed by any poet - except Shakespeare (and no one can surpass Shakespeare). The magnificent, long, autobiographical poem The Prelude is his masterpiece, a poem I dip into for inspiration time and again.
You sense in many of his poems (eg The Solitary Reaper, The Ruined Cottage, The Old Cumberland Beggar) that Wordsworth identified strongly and sympathetically with pedlars, beggars, shepherds, poverty-stricken cottagers, and other solitaries and vagrants; I think he wrote somewhere that, if fate had turned out slightly differently, he could easily have been one of society's outsiders like them, poor in coin but not deprived in spirit, full of fortitude and a secret wisdom such as that shown by the leech-gatherer in the poem Resolution And Independence.
Finally, and returning again to I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud - if I had to point out one of Wordsworth's recurrent and major themes, it's encapsulated completely and unambiguously in this short, well known poem about daffodils. The theme concerns how you can have a direct, immediate, life-enhancing, joyful experience of nature (often when young and 'thoughtless'); and then how you might later recapture and relive the experience in comfortable solitude using one's imagination or 'inward eye'. This idea of the recollection and attempted recovery of past, quasi-mystical experiences (usually from one's childhood) is explored in many of Wordsworth's poems. But more of this in subsequent posts...
(Thanks to Riverdaze for being one of the inspirations behind this piece.)