Cover image for I wandered Lonely as a Cloud featuring poet William Wordsworth

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud – A Detailed and Complete Analysis

I wandered lonely as a cloud is one of the most famous creations of William Wordsworth. Not only that, but this poem is one of the prime examples of the Romanticism movement that was started by Wordsworth and Coleridge ( more about that in the latter part of the article). The article has a comprehensive analysis of “I wandered lonely as a cloud” as well as the theme of this poem. We have also included the literary devices used and the deeper meaning of the poem.

About William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth
A Portrait of William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth is considered to be the pioneer of the very famous Romanticism era. He, along with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge pioneered this style and made it so much popular. Romanticism is not writing about romance or love. This was the style in which poets broke the traditional norms. They broke free from the chains Classicism put on them. As used by Greeks and other classic poets, classicism dictated the structure and composition of a poem. The progression, the style, everything.

Romanticism was the liberation from those rules. It gave the poets the freedom to write about what they feel, according to their will. Much like impressionism in painting, romanticism glorified and praised emotions and imagination. It was the free-flowing motion of one’s love towards anything. And a great example here, I wandered lonely as a cloud shows how Wordsworth was a pioneer in this expression of feeling. How he used nature and amalgamated with his feeling. He brilliantly reverse-personifies and describes his mental and emotional state. Along with that, he shows his love for nature and its beauty. 

About the poem.

Before we analyze the meaning of “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” let’s have some background information about the poem. The poem was inspired by an event that happened on April 15, 1802. That day, William Wordsworth was out for a walk in the countryside. He was walking beside a lake with his sister, Dorothy. It was Dorothy’s notes that described this day. It was during the walk when Wordsworth came across a field of daffodils. 

William Wordsworth I wandered as a lonely cloud
William Wordsworth. Image by Benjamin Haydon

Dorothy described that day to be a windy one and hence there were a lot of waves in the sea as well as dancing daffodils which are well described in the poem itself. This poem is about finding happiness in what you have. You’ll see as we describe the meaning of the poem, that it is about missing the little things and being sad about our own conditions. Here is the analysis,

I wandered lonely as a cloud analysis.

First Stanza : 

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.

In the first stanza of the poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud describes the current state of the narrator and his encounter with the field of daffodils. A lot about the meaning of the poem can be taken from this first stanza. Notice how the poet, Wordsworth, uses the term “wandered” instead of moving. Wandered means to move aimlessly, directionless in wherever the external forces take. 

Meaning: The narrator is describing his loneliness and the lack of direction and happiness in his life. 

But then he says that all at once he saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils. Notice how he has de-personified himself (by calling himself a cloud) and personified the daffodils. A sense of surprise hit him as he saw these flowers all at once. That got his attention quickly. Also, notice how he used golden instead of yellow. This was done to signify the color of the daffodils. It wasn’t just yellow, it was golden. That color was of high worth. Fluttering and dancing in the breeze is another instance of personification. 

Deeper Meaning: Notice how the wind is making these colorful daffodils dance and flutter in happiness while the same wind is making the cloud (poet) movie aimlessly in melancholy. There is a stark contrast between him and the daffodils which are under the same influence.

I wandered as a lonely cloud
As a lonely cloud

Second Stanza :

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 poet now compares these daffodils to the stars in the Milky Way. Their fluttering is compared to the twinkling of the stars. This is to call these daffodils as something heavenly as the sky and the stars are considered as heaven. There was something divine about the scene.
The poet also says: 

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in a sprightly dance”

Again the poet here uses the word “sprightly” which is derived from “sprite.” This shows the heavenly resonance the poet is perceiving in the scene of the daffodils’ dance. The “Ten thousand” number is just to express the great number that the author saw.

I wandered as a lonely cloud
A group of Daffodils

Third Stanza : 

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:

Here the poet expresses his love and happiness for the scene that he encountered. He personifies the waves too, saying that they too danced. But they could not match the glee with which those golden daffodils danced. The poet also says that he was so lost in glee while watching that scene, he could not realize how important a role that very moment is going to play in our lives. 

Isn’t this true for everyone? I am sure we all have some memories which we cherish a lot. But when you think about it, the moment when you were living it, you had no idea how important that moment would be in the future. This is what the poet is conveying.

Deeper Meaning: The poet now says that he couldn’t help but be happier in such a jocund company. Remember in the beginning he was so lonely? Now he was with tens of thousands of happy dancers, lost in joy. The wealth the poet talks about is not monetary, but emotional. We’ll elaborate more in the final stanza analysis.

Fourth Stanza :

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.

In the fourth and final stanza, the poet is in a different place, at a different time. He is reminiscing about the very day he encountered the beautiful scene. He says that when he is in a vacant or contemplative mood, that very eye-catching scene of thousands of daffodils dancing with the winds comes to his mind. It flashes upon an inward eye. This is similar to the first time which he saw “All at once.” 

The Deeper meaning: Remember in the third stanza the poet talks about the wealth he received? The line “The Bliss of Solitude” is the wealth he received. See how the whole situation has changed, yet the condition is the same. Let us explain.

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The Deeper Meaning of I wandered lonely as a cloud

Remember the poem started with the poet wandering lonely wherever the winds took him? He was alone and aimless. He was also said, unhappy. But when he encountered the sight of the daffodils, something changed in him. This change was reflected in the last stanza, which makes the poem so meaningful.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
A hand-written manuscript of William Wordsworth’s ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ also known as ‘Daffodils’ (1802). Image: © The British Library Board

He learned that just like the wind was making him wander, the same wind was making the crowd of daffodils dance. Both of them had the same external condition around them. One danced, the other wandered. So did the poet change his perspective? Yes.

In the last stanza, he says “Which is the Bliss of Solitude.” Now when he is lonely and feels unhappy, he is celebrating that loneliness with the thought of the daffodils. The very same loneliness has now become a cheerful condition because of that scene. The poet went from being lonely and wandering aimlessly to reminiscing and dancing with the crowd of daffodils.

The Form of the Poem 

I wandered lonely as a cloud is made of four stanzas each with six lines. The rhyming pattern is in the order ABABCC. This makes the structure of the poem a combination of quatrains and couplets. The poem also has iambic tetrameter.

The Literary devices of “I wandered lonely as a cloud”

The poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” has a lot of personification as well as de-personification in it. Apart from these obvious, there is a use of imagery as well. Wordsworth has also used anastrophe a few times, Anastrophe is the changing of the order of words in a sentence. An example of that would be this; “For oft, when on my couch I lie.”

Here is the list and example of all the literary devices used.

Metaphor: The word “inward-eye” is a metaphor for memory.

Consonance: In the line “What wealth the show to me had brought” one can see the sound of “t” continuously/

Imagery: There is a lot of imagery used in the poem. The lines such as “jocund company,” “Ten thousand daffodils,” “milky way,” etc.

Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of the vowel sound in the same lines of a poem. An example would be “They stretched in never-ending.”

Personification: Personification is also used a lot and often in this poem. The terms such as “crowd” and “host” personifies the daffodils, along with “Tossing their heads,” “in a jocund company,” etc.

Simile: The words such as “as a lonely could” or “continues as the stars that shine” are examples of similes used in the poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

Alliteration: It is the repetition of the consonant sound in one line of the poem. Here the example would be “I gazed and gazed,” with the sound of “G” repeated.

I wandered as a lonely cloud
The personification of Daffodils.

The Theme of I wandered lonely as a cloud

As with a simple read, anyone can see the theme of the poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” is the connection between humans and nature. It is also about the beauty of nature that is oft-ignored. The poem talks about the positive impact nature can have on human lives and how it can be the key to living a happy life. The poem connects the man in the poem and nature. See how the daffodils and waves come alive as the poet enters the scene. The poem shows that even though loneliness was there with the poet all the time, the view of the daffodils and nature has changed the way he used to see things. Now he enjoys loneliness by remembering this beautiful sight. That is the impact of nature on humans.

This was the analysis of the poem I wandered lonely as a cloud. We hope this was helpful for you, the readers. If you have any queries, you can ask them in the comments section below.

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