The importance of memory in Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” Essay
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Write about the importance of memory in Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and Clarke’s “Miracle on St. David’s Day”
The first of the two poems, Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” is about a man remembering that some daffodils cheered him up one day. The poem starts off with the person being described as a cloud and how he slowly joins a “host” of “golden” daffodils. But the reader does not know at first that this poem is actually a memory until further down in the poem.
Throughout the poem Wordsworth refers back to the daffodils and makes a connection with other things like them such as stars. Wordsworth also depicts how the daffodils “dance”. In the last verse the reader finally finds out that the poem is a recollection.
Whilst the second of the two poems, “Miracle on St. David’s Day” written by Gillian Clarke is about a mentally ill patient reciting Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” in front of a crowd of other patients and daffodils. From the title “Miracle on St. David’s Day” it is revealed to the reader what this poem is about. It is obvious that a miracle is the main point of the poem, meaning something holy yet unexpected. The poem starts off in a very positive setting “among the cedars and enormous oaks” but by the second verse the reader finds out that Clarke is, in reality, describing an Insane Asylum. The poet describes herself “reading poetry to the insane” as she does a “huge and mild” man recites Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” with no emotion the memory of the poem is perfect but the sound isn’t because he hadn’t spoken in a long time. He recites the poem in front of the other patients and ten thousand daffodils outside.
Both these poems have the theme of memory and daffodils but each are represented in a different way.
In the first line of “Daffodils” Wordsworth describes himself as a cloud, wandering lonely. The verb and adverb tell us that the cloud isn’t moving very fast and that the cloud is a distance from everything else. This is also personification because the cloud could also be a person outcast by society, for example Wordsworth could be trying to describe his own experience. In the second line of the verse the poet uses another slow verb “floats”.
Half way through the verse there is a change of pace “all at once” and the reader then sees the “crowd” of daffodils. Additionally the poet using two adjectives to describe the numbers of daffodils “host” and “crowd” showing that there must have been at least one hundred. This could also mean that the person being described as a cloud being accepted back into society. Wordsworth describes the daffodils as “golden” with illustrates the radiant colour and wealth of the memory. In the last line of the first verse Wordsworth uses personification to give the daffodils human characteristics when he uses the verbs “Fluttering and dancing” which are also metaphors. The verb “dancing” also gives the sense that the daffodils were dancing all together in rhythm. In the first verse and throughout the poem the poet uses rhyming couplets at the end of each line. Wordsworth also uses the rhyme scheme of ABABCC in each verse.
Wordsworth in the second verse talks about “stars” and how many there were and makes a connection between them and the daffodils. The poet describes the stars, as “continuous” showing the reader that there are countless numbers of them. In the second line the writer uses the adjective and verb “twinkle” to describe the stars; there is also a connection between “twinkle” and “golden” because stars are also golden. The poet carries on to say, “they stretched in a never-ending line” which supports the other quotes. Most of the second verse goes on about how many stars there actually are. In the fourth line the poet says “Ten thousand saw I at a glance” which shows he wasn’t paying attention to how many there were it also gives us the impression that the stars ‘saw’ him. Wordsworth makes another connection between the daffodils and the stars because they both “dance”. He uses the verb “tossing” and the adverb “sprightly” to describe the way they danced. Wordsworth connects the daffodils and the stars by telling us that they both danced.
Wordsworth, throughout the poem, has repeated the dancing, the daffodils and the fact that in every verse there is a mentioning of water, in the first verse it was “lake” in the second “bay” and finally in the third “waves”. And again in the first line of the third verse the poet repeats the fact that he saw something dance. He says “the waves beside them danced, but “. The mood then changes with the use of the word “but”, because it makes the reader expect something. After all the describing of the magical and romantic atmosphere, the reader feels pessimistic that something is going to change the whole mood of the poem.
The reader then discovers that nothing terrible happens but the “but” was only to shame the waves, as the daffodils were more effective “out-did the sparkling waves in glee”. This means that the daffodils were better than waves. The atmosphere is now light and fantastic again, “glee” meaning merriment and cheerfulness. There is a colon in the middle of verse three indicating a pause, which continues with Wordsworth commenting on his feelings and actions. “I gazed- and gazed- but little thought”. The dashes slow the line down by breaking it up gradually. By doing this Wordsworth indicates the end of the description of the daffodils. There is also a metaphor in this verse, “what wealth to me the show had brought”. The “wealth” in this verse is a metaphor describing the memory, experience and emotion of seeing the daffodils.
The last verse indicates that the poem was a memory or flashback. The reader knows this from the first line of the verse, “For oft, when on my couch I lie”. The reader knows that the memory is frequently ‘visited’ because “oft” means often. The next line creates an empty mood, far away, drifting and dreaming. The mood and atmosphere is quite strongly put forward to the reader with “vacant or in pensive mood”. This means absent and dreaming, inattentive and expressionless but with a thoughtful frame of mind. Verse four has a special meaning. It is a time in Wordsworth’s life when he is having a look back at his experiences, which is so emotionally overwhelming to him that it has created an extremely long lasting impression in his mind. Wordsworth sums up his feelings from the experience in the last verse “they flash upon that inward eye”; here he is saying that the vision of the crowd of daffodils is stuck in his imagination for the rest of his life.
This brings great happiness to him, “which is the bliss of solitude”. By using the word “bliss”, Wordsworth expresses his emotion of complete happiness. “Solitude”, meaning being alone completely with no-one near you at all, tells the reader that this experience was very personal to him and special, and only he will ever know the wonder of it even if he describes is as best as he can to others “and then my heart with pleasure fills”. This is a personification as there is an image of a jug being filled to the brim with pure joy. Also there is another personification in the last verse, “and dances with the daffodils”. It is a further personification of a lively person who dances. In this last line Wordsworth is saying that his heart is dancing with the daffodils. Daffodils do not dance, but to Wordsworth they give off life, joy and radiant beauty.
The last three lines of verse four create a pure and lovely mood. In “The Daffodils” Wordsworth is trying to teach the reader to appreciate the beauty of nature and to understand the importance of memory. I also think that he is trying to teach the reader about how the effect of just one experience in your life can be so strong and powerful that it can be remembered as vividly as it was the day of the experience many years later. “Miracle on St David’s day” starts off very positively in the first verse. With the use of slow verbs the atmosphere becomes very relaxed “An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed”. Clarke uses the sun to describe the rest of the setting “The sun treads the path”. Clarke uses very descriptive adjectives to describe the setting and the trees such as the “enormous oaks”.
But in the fourth line there is a cast of doubt to this happy place when it says, “It might be” as well as a warning it also adds mystery to the poem. In the last but one line of the first verse we finally find out that it is a “country house” with “guests strolling,” this sounds like the perfect fantasy for most people. But in the second verse the perfect image is shattered “I am reading poetry to the insane” this is a shock for the reader because it was totally unexpected. It is a very bold statement to put in to a poem. The reader finds out that the perfect “country house” is actually an insane asylum or a hospital. From being very positive, “Miracle on St David’s day” has turned into a very negative poem.
The verse carries on to describe the audience sitting down listening to the poem,” A beautiful chestnut -haired boy” although these people are mentally ill Clarke still tries to describe them as if they were normal people. Another shock is that the child she described so perfectly was actually, “a schizophrenic on a good day”. Gillian Clarke describes the hospital further by saying “In a cage of first March sun” this statement gives you the image of a prison not a hospital. But the bars of the cage are actually only the blinds on the window but it still gives you the idea that the patients are trapped inside the hospital. The poet then describes a woman “not listening, not seeing, not feeling” Clarke uses the techniques of tripling and repetition of the word “not” to describe the woman’s mental state.
Gillian Clarke further explains that the woman was “absent” meaning that she wasn’t really listening just sitting there. Gillian Clarke at the end of the third verse mentions, “A big mild man is tenderly led to his chair.” We have know idea what is wrong with him; all we know is that he is “a big, mild man” this shrouds the patient in mystery because we don’t know what he is going to do or say. But immediately after the man has been led to his chair Clarke reveals to us “he has never spoken” whilst being a patient at the hospital.
Although the man seems a tough guy the reader finds out that he actually isn’t “he rocks gently to the rhythms of the poems”. Gillian Clarke depicts herself reading “to their absences, presences” she uses rhyme contrast to describe the patients she is reading to. In the last line she once more describes the silence man as she did in the previous verse “big, dumb labouring man as he rocks”. The verb and adjective “labouring” portrays an image of a strong but unintelligent man. To start off the fifth verse Clarke uses the technique of sibilance, tripling and alliteration to describe the man’s movements “suddenly standing, silently.” These three words put together are called sibilants.
The man had never really been noticed before until now. Although the man hasn’t done anything Gillian Clarke is still afraid of him, she says “huge and mild, but I feel afraid”. The poet uses similes to describe the man ‘breaking’ through his silence, “like slow movement of spring water”. In the last line of verse five the man starts to recite “The Daffodils”. Clarke describes the nurses are “frozen” silenced and shocked by the miracle before them that the man can actually speak. Clarke describes him as “hoarse but word perfect” this reinforces the fact that he hadn’t spoken in a long time. As he recites the poem outside we find out that there are daffodils as “still as wax” which is another simile. The daffodils are also shocked by the man speaking because they are ‘frozen’ as well.
They are also his audience. Clarke describes the numbers of daffodils and how their syllables are unspoken. In the last but one verse we find out how the man knew the poem.”40 years ago in a valleys school” although it is a short poem he still remembered it after 40 years. After starting to speak again h had “remembered there was a music of speech” but he did use to speak “and that he once had something to say”. At the end of the man’s poem “before the applause, we observe the flower’s silence. A thrush sings and the daffodils are flame.” Gillian Clarke portrays a vivid and colourful image of the daffodils. She describes them as “flame” but the reader knows that they are actually clapping.
These two poems “the Daffodils” by William Wordsworth and “Miracle on St. David’s Day” by Gillian Clarke are both very similar in style, content and ideas both have some mentioning of daffodils. And both have the theme of memory except they’re represented in a different way. These two poems talk about the importance of memory to a person; in Wordsworth case a man remembering a great day he had with some daffodils and in Clarke case a mental patient remembering the poem “The Daffodils” after 40 years without speaking. Both these poems have a lot in common with each other. But they are also connected by their style of writing.