An Eclectic Analysis of
Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
The eclectic analysis is the combination of the best of all analytical approaches. So, an eclectic analyst can employ whatever approaches, or parts of approaches, seemed to be demanded by the literary work. However, he is not obligated to include all analytical perspectives or even more than one. What he must do is to select all aspects—the author’s life or historical backgrounds, psychology, archetypes, and feminism—which he thinks, will make his analysis more accurate, and understandable (Guches, 1980: 153). In order to get an accurate analysis of Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud the present writer believes that taking a brief review on the poet’s biography and the movement under which he wrote the poem is of great importance. Now, let us start to see his biography briefly.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), the first major poet of the Romantic Revival Period, was born in Cumberland, Highland and had started writing when he attended Cambridge University. He was formerly a fanatic admirer of the French Revolution, but later when he saw the undesirable innovation as the result of the revolution his admiration was changed into disappointment, and even opposition.
The most important influences in later life of Wordsworth were nature, something which was more than merely physical loveliness for him. He even worshipped the nature because he saw its entire object as the dwelling spirit of the Supreme Being. This made him a mystic. However, this mystical love of the nature goes together with his love to man who is part and parcel of the nature (Samekto, 1976: 51). Such influence of nature to Wordsworth is clearly seen in nearly all of his masterpieces, such as Tintern Abbey, The Leech Gatherer, To the Cukoo, Upon Westminster Bridge and The Solitary Reaper.
The Romantic Revival, the period in which Wordsworth created his works, refers to the movement under which poets created their work during the first thirty years of the 19th century in England. These poets are now well known as the second romantic poets who tried to revive or reestablish poetry predominated by imaginations, emotions and feelings which had existed in the literature of the Elizabethan era, during which the first romantics, such as Shakespeare, produced their works.
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Wordsworth’s I wandered Lonely as a Cloud is a descriptive poem in which the author expresses the happiness he gets after enjoying the beauty of a great number of daffodils. He begins the poem by telling his loneliness. This solitude of his, however, is gradually lessened as he keeps on gazing the nice feature and movement of the daffodils. After describing how the blowing wind makes the flowers move, dance, and stretch continuously in an endless line along the bay, the poet states that whenever he feels sad, he will try to recollect the beauty of the daffodils in his mind. By doing this he will directly finds ‘the bliss of solitude’ which enables him to get happiness.
The subject matter of this poem is the beauty of the daffodils seen by the poet, because nearly all of the lines are dominated by the descriptions, which emphasize those flowers’ beauty. It is true that the poet, sometimes, talks about other things, like stars on the Milky Way and waves of the lake beside the flowers, but these things are merely meant to be a comparison to emphasize the impression of the beauty of the daffodils. The poet states that the beauty of the dance of the daffodils far surpasses the dance of the lake: “The waves beside them dance; but they outdid the sparkling waves in glee” (ll. 13-14).
Despite the fact that the beauty of the daffodils dominates the poem, the poets do not present it for its own sake. He actually relates that beauty to his life. In the first lines he, by using a simile in which he compares himself to a floating cloud, precisely describes how deep his loneliness is. Then, in the final lines, he resolutes that the beauty of the daffodils facilitates him a very precious quite time to retrospect his life. After the retrospection he finally manages to expel his sadness out. We can easily understand this phenomenon by realizing that solitude can be used as a good condition to make one’s life retrospection to understand his true self. (Self-understanding is one of the greatest wealth and joy. The world’s history has shown that monks and other holy men always use solitude to get more understanding about life). Considering these facts, we can say that the underlying idea or theme of this poem is that the beauty of the nature is an effective facility for self-retrospection and a suitable remedy for the poet’s sadness.
The use of the beauty of the nature as the theme of a work is actually typical of Wordsworth. Nearly in all of his poems he worships the nature. What attracts him in the nature is not only its beauty but also the existence of its restorative power caused by his belief that the nature is the dwelling of the Supreme Being. That is why I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud does not merely describe the beauty of the daffodils. It also expresses that the presence of God in the nature’s beauty makes it one of the best answer for one of the most inherent problems in human life: spiritual vacancy:
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’s use of the beauty of the nature in this poem can be considered as his opposition towards the classicists who glorify the use of rational thinking rather than imaginative thinking to find the answers for human life’s problems. Wordsworth believes that sometimes-imaginative thinking is more useful. That is why, in this poem, he writes: “I gazed and gazed – but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought” (ll. 17-18). Through these lines Wordsworth probably means to emphasize the use of imagination, emotion, and feeling (elements of imaginative thinking) in order to find the solutions for people’s life.
In this poem Wordsworth, on purpose, uses the first person point of view. This is quite reasonable, because the use of that limited viewpoint enables him to let the reader interpret the poem in the same way as how he sees it: from a romantic point of view. This fact, admittedly, prompts the reader to consider the theme of the poem as a local, not a universal, one. In order to avoid this sense of locality, however, Wordsworth sets the poem in a placeless and timeless setting. Consequently, the theme of the poem seems to be quite universal.
The sense of universality in this poem is also carried out through the use of simple, general, and daily words, such as ‘cloud’, ‘vales’, ‘hills’, ‘trees’, ‘milky way’, etc.
Besides to imply the sense of universality, Wordsworth also manages to use his diction to create an appropriate mood or atmosphere to support his theme. He, on purpose, uses the words such as ‘golden’, ‘dancing’, ‘jacunt, ‘gay’, ‘pleasure’, etc., (which refer to happiness) for the reasons that such words will not spoil the happy mood and the peaceful, clear, and silent atmosphere of the poem. There are, admittedly, some words, which do not refer to happiness, such as ‘lonely’ and ‘pensive’. However, their existence does not spoil the happy mood or atmosphere of the poem. They are presented only to be domineered by their oppositions (words which refer to happiness), and then they are directed to increase the impression of the happy mood (by making the beauty of the daffodils manages to expel the pensive mood, for instance).
This ability of Wordsworth to use daily, simple and common words to create a beautiful totality, undoubtedly, shows his exceptional talent and imagination as a poet. What are seen on the surface of this poem are daily and ordinary words that constitute ordinary things in daily life. Clouds are seen every day, stars are common things, and daffodils are not extraordinary flowers. However, since Wordsworth forces the reader to see these things through his new and imaginative way, everything becomes new and looks sensational. This achievement, of course, deserves good respect.
In addition to the appropriate word-choice, two other aspects the author applies to beautify this poem are his giving it seven figures of speech and unmonotonous music. The figures of speech are made up of three personifications: “golden daffodils…. dancing in the breeze” (ll. 4-7), “tossing their heads” (l. 12), and “the waves … danced” (l. 13); one onomatopoeia: “breeze” (l. 6); two hyperboles: “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills (ll. 1-2) And “… in a never ending lines” (l. 9); and two similes: “I … as a cloud” (l .1) and ” … as the stars” (l. 7). The functions of all these figures of speech can be explained as follows. Firstly, the three personifications function to give the impression of movements, so that the poem will look livelier. Secondly, the single onomatopoeia functions to give beautiful sound to the poem. Thirdly, the two hyperboles and the two similes are meant parallel to increase the effect of loneliness of the poet (the first hyperbole and the first simile), so that the reader will agree with the poet about the importance of the beauty of the daffodils in overcoming his loneliness, and to increase the impression of the beauty of the daffodils by comparing it to the stars’ beauty (the second hyperbole and the second simile).
Talking about the music of the poem, we can say that Wordsworth creates such a good rhyme scheme (a – b – a – b – c – c) to each of the four stanzas of the poem. It is obvious that by giving it such a good musical end-rhyme, Wordsworth manages to make the poem easily and smoothly chanted. It is also meant to make the poem sounds more beautifully when it is being read aloud, and these achievements prove Wordsworth’s great talent as a poet.
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