‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ is the opening of one of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems. Wordsworth is a poet who is closely associated with the natural world and in particular with the Lake District where he lived for many years. The poem was included in a manuscript of handwritten poems sent to his publishers, Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme in batches between 1806 and 1807. The initial agreement to publish a single volume of Wordworth’s poetry was extended to two volumes hence the title, Poems in Two Volumes.
The composition of the poem
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ is believed to have been composed between 1804 and 1807. The poetry manuscript consists of three six-line stanzas and with the exception of one correction (the word ‘host’ in line four appears to have been added) it is a fair copy (i.e. uncorrected) version of the poem. The poems were submitted in batches and at the top of the page Wordsworth wrote a note to the printer about the placement of this particular poem. He asked for the poem to be included in the section ‘Moods of my own mind’ after the poem, ‘The Cock is crowing’.
Interestingly when the poem was published again in 1815 as part of ‘Poems of the Imagination’ Wordsworth made a number of changes. The most striking of these was to add another verse, which was inserted between the first and second stanzas of the 1807 poem. In both versions of the poem Wordsworth reflects on the beauty of the daffodils that grew along the edge of a lake, which may have been Ullswater located between Penrith and Grasmere in the Lake District, an area known to the poet.
Other poems in the manuscript volume had been copied by Wordsworth himself and also by his wife, Mary and his sister-in-law, Sara Hutchinson. This explains why there are examples of different handwriting within the volume. Research into the paper used in the volume showed that many of the pages were originally cut from a single large sheet of paper.
To the Printer(after the Poem (in the set under the title of “Moods of my own mind”) beginning “They
“The Cock is crowing” please to insert the two following properly number'd, & number the succeeding ones accordingly)
I wandered like a lonely
I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high oer Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
The Waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling Waves in glee:----
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gaz'd - and gaz'd - but little thoughts
What wealth the shew 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 blifs of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.
Who fancied what a pretty sight
This Rock would be if edged around
With living Snowdrops? circled bright!
- Full title:
- 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' from William Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes, 1807: the printer's manuscript
- estimated 14 November 1806 - early April 1807, Coleorton, Leicestershire
- William Wordsworth
- © Dove Cottage - Wordsworth Trust
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 47864
- Article by:
- Stephanie Forward
Dr Stephanie Forward explains the key ideas and influences of Romanticism, and considers their place in the work of writers including Wordsworth, Blake, P B Shelley and Keats.
- Article by:
- Philip Shaw
Professor Philip Shaw considers the composition of 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey', and explains how Wordsworth uses nature to explore ideas of connection and unity.
- Article by:
- John Mullan
- London, Romanticism
Wordsworth’s vision of London’s serene beauty was composed on the roof of a coach – the poet was en route to France to meet his illegitimate daughter Caroline for the first time. Professor John Mullan explores the background to the poem.
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