Wordsworth begins his extended metaphor in the third line of the poem, with his speaker saying, “I saw a crowd, / a host, of golden daffodils” that were “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” (line 6). The speaker is attributing to these daffodils human qualities: their forming a crowd, and their dancing. That the speaker has “wandered lonely as a cloud” (1) introduces the speaker as one content to be apart from other people. The speaker admits that he enjoys his being apart from other men when he speaks of himself as a peaceful cloud that “floats on high o’er vales and hills” (1). The image of a cloud floating is tranquil, and suggests that the speaker is pleased to be drifting alone. The speaker’s satisfaction with his state is reinforced by the triumphant phrase “on high o’er vales and hills”, which suggests the speaker is closer to heaven than his fellow men. This speaker, lonely among men, revels in his meeting with the “jocund company” (16) of the daffodils he finds.
He shows us the daffodils as they were “tossing their heads in a sprightly dance” (12) — a liveliness the speaker is apparently unable to find in his solitude as a man. Contrasting the daffodils to the power of the waters of a bay, the speaker says that the flowers “Outdid the sparkling waters in glee” (14). In nature, only the daffodils are of such beauty that the narrator can project onto them the happy feelings he longs to have. When the speaker looks back at his encounter with the daffodils, it is when “on my couch I lie / In vacant or in pensive mood” (19-20). Returned to the industrialized world, the speaker is vacant of the joy he found in nature — especially the joy he saw in the daffodils. So he recalls the daffodil flowers, “And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils.” (23-24). The speaker is reunited with the pleasure he finds in nature and cannot gain from people.