Daffodils – different perspectives over time

daffodils with a watching cloud

Many of us are familiar with William Wordsworth’s iconic poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ that conveys a sense of awe at the natural beauty the persona confronts. Ultimately, nature is a revitalising force that can be recalled through memory during moments of reflective thought.

Preliminary students have been analysing this text as a revision exercise for the Area of Study: Journey in preparation for their end of course exam. Download I wandered lonely as a cloud – annotated copy, with two questions that should help shape one or two paragraphs to be used as related material.

However, we may be less familiar with the idea that Wordsworth dictated early drafts to his wife Mary, and then to Dorothy, his sister, between 1802 and the date of completion in 1804. In The English Studies Book, 2nd edition, by Rob Pope, more details of the process of writing this poem are revealed:

… first published without the third verse [and] according to William’s own notes which were dictated to Isabella Fenwick forty years later … “The best two lines in it are by Mary”

p. 350

Pope provides an extract from Dorothy’s Grasmere Journals dated April 15, 1802 which explores her perspective:

We got over into a field to avoid some cows – people working, a few primroses by the roadside, wood-sorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs. C calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gorbarrow park we saw a few daffodils, close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turn-pike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful, they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing.

p. 351

This journal was written without thought of publication, and not published until after Dorothy’s death in 1855. These ideas were freely shared with William, providing prompts, reminders and sometimes phrasing for his poems.

Lynne Peters, writing in the Virago Book of Wicked Verse in 1992 explains

WHY DOROTHY WORDSWORTH IS NOT AS FAMOUS AS HER BROTHER

“I wandered lonely as a…

They’re in the top drawer, William,

Under your socks –

I wandered lonely as a –

No not that drawer, the top one.

I wandered by myself –

Well wear the ones you can find.

No, don’t get overwrought my dear, I’m coming.

 

“I wandered lonely as a –

Lonely as a cloud when –

Soft-boiled egg, yes my dear,

As usual, three minutes –

As a cloud which floats –

Look, I said I’ll cook it,

Just hold on will you –

All right, I’m coming.

“One day I was out for a walk

When I saw this flock –

It can’t be too hard, it had three minutes.

Well put some butter in it. –

This host of golden daffodils

As I was out for a stroll one –

“Oh you fancy a stroll, do you?

Yes all right, William, I’m coming.

It’s on the peg. Under your hat.

I’ll bring my pad, shall I, in case

You want to jot something down?”

from Literature II

*image taken from pixaby

 

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