A Critical View on William Wordsworth's poem "The Daffodils"

The Daffodils

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.

All critics believe when they come to study this poem that Wordsworth is describing the flowers. Conventional criticism believe that while he was walking, he came to a bunch of daffodils. They believe that the poem is nothing more than a description. However, I believe that Wordsworth did not meet the daffodils when he wrote this poem, a good poet doesn't need to see the daffodils to write about them.

In his "Preface to Lyrical Ballad" he says that a poet is not in need for external stimulus so that he could write a poem. This means that whenever we meet a poem, we shouldn't understand that the poem is the product of a certain definite occasion. Wordsworth may have seen but also he could write the poem even if he didn't see the daffodils. He can write with or without a stimulus. Seeing the daffodils or not is an external factor and shouldn't be considered in evaluating the poem. This has nothing with the evaluation of the poem. The first impression about the title is that the first lines would be about the daffodils. In this case it will appear that Wordsworth is describing the daffodils. This is not the function of poetry because Wordsworth say that poetry is the "Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility". So, the lines are not about the daffodils, and even if they are, the poet is not reproducing nature. The purpose of poetry is never to imitate nature, because if it is an imitation, then it wouldn't be poetry according to Wordsworth. This is what is conveyed in his preface. "Poetry has no purpose, if there is a purpose, it should be a worthy one". There are two contradictory cases, either poetry has a purpose or not. If poetry has a purpose, then Wordsworth would be describing, but as proved in the lines, he is not describing the flowers. The worthy purpose is not describing the daffodils, so there is another story behind the title.

The word "wander" denotes moving without destination. The person who wanders doesn't know where he is going. Wordsworth was not going to look at the daffodils. "I" is the I of the poet, there is no distance between the poet and the "I". The person in the poem is the poet himself, he is not reproducing nature. The person of the poem is lost, so the poet is placing the poem at another level of discussion when he says that he is lost. He is not satisfied, he is like a cloud because a cloud doesn't choose its direction. He is choosing himself and another image which is the cloud that is driven by the wind, so may the poet be driven by something else?

I  wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high over vales and hills ,  
which is the image of the cloud.

The poem raises a very important question which is the resemblance between the world of poetry and the world of reality. This poem appears to be a mere description of a yellow flower. This is a deadly mistake in poetry, if a poem is a reproduction of reality by the poet, then his poetry will be the result of describing reality. The poet would have no role but to reproduce reality. No art can allow itself to reproduce what is factual because there will be no role for the artist or the poet. There is a landscape in the poem which is the daffodils, but it only exists in the world of the poem. Because there is a resemblance between the  world of poetry and the world of reality , the poet tries to create his own world of poetry for the daffodils which couldn't have the shape of the crowd in the world of reality.

The effort done in this poem by the poet, is a trial to redefine poetry in practice through writing this poem. So this poem is the definition of poetry. In romantic poetry, the material imposed upon poets included nature as one of its components. In nature, the poet found a reflection of himself. After 50 years poetry didn't include nature as one of its materials. The daffodils in the poem have another function than just being a daffodil.

Writing poetry has nothing to do with feelings, it is about talent and structure. In writing this poem Wordsworth is abiding by the rules of nature. He is observing rules which produce a work of art that looks like nature. When we meet the movement of the daffodils, their shape and the place they grow in, we find resemblance in these poetic elements to nature. The structure of poetry has a reference to nature, resemblance and not imitation of nature. The poem stands for the poet and how we should perceive poetry. When poetry flows spontaneously, it needs the interference of the poet's intellect or it cannot be written. The poetic experience passes through the poet's intellect, thus having control over the poem. The first 6 lines form one unit, and at the same time form grammatical unit, this unit reveals that the words in one unit are  attached to each other which makes it difficult to hold a pause or a full stop but until the end of the unit. The sound unity coincides with the grammatical unity and this could not take place by coincidence. The mind of the poet was in command with the poetic experience. The term "glee" in line 14 represents the joy of the poetic experience, it is related to the music and rhythm of poetry itself and not to the daffodils. In "gazing" there is an intellectual effort which goes beyond mere looking, it is a process of involving the real understanding of the scene and the conscious effort that accompanies gazing. "The show" is metaphorical for the process of writing poetry. "Off" is a sigh of relief, a shift from tension to a relaxed mood. In line 20, there is another reference to the process of recollection. The last lines reveal Wordsworth intention for writing the poem, the connotation of his "glee" in writing poetry. He didn't write for audience, he did not want to teach anything, he just wrote for the joy of poetry, poetry for its own sake. The poem isn't about the daffodils, but they are contained in the structure of the poem.