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William Wordsworth

Categories: William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, known as one of the first generation of romantic poets lived from 1770-1850. Apart from romantic poems Wordsworth covered sonnets and poems expressing the child-like features of natural and man-made landscape. Two of his most famous works that fit into this genre are ‘The Daffodils’, a poem looking at the beauty of nature and ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge Sept. 3, 18’ a petrachan sonnet looking at natures contrast-man-made beauty.

He was influenced by all elements of the world, and also, closer relations like his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth.

Many times Dorothy contributed to his masterpieces, recorded through Dorothy’s diary, now known as the ‘Grassmere Journals’. Another patron that helped Wordsworth along the way was Sir George Beaumont, a friend and comrade of Wordsworth who frequently shared thoughts in letters. Many of his pieces reflect the beauty of the world and Wordsworths’ amazement at this. His ability to see the world through the wonder and freshness of a child allowed him to write some of the best and most unforgettable poems of our time.

The poem ‘The Daffodils’ derived from a trip to Eusmere with his sister, Dorothy. On the journey they passed a field of daffodils, described by Dorothy as to be ‘dancing’ and in ‘gayety’- recorded in the Grassmere Journals. This famous poem has been described as a ‘beautiful expression of joy’.

The title-‘The Daffodils’ presents a patent indication of subject matter. The poem begins with a strong sense of person, which is emphasised by the use of a simile -‘I wandered as lonely as a cloud’.

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Apart from the reflection of the solitude of a cloud it also creates an atmosphere of slow speed and drifting-like a cloud, relating to Wordsworths walking and how he is taking his time to take in the landscape around him. By the first line he has already established himself through the first person and he also establishes the mood using words like ‘lonely’ and ‘wandered’ suggesting solitude, and moving with no purpose. He also suggests the surroundings by extending the previous simile: ‘That floats on high o’er vales and hills’. Here he suggests a rural vision through ‘vales’ (valleys) and ‘hills’. Onto the third a sudden sense of urgency is created with ‘when all at once’, contrasting the sense of slow speed developed in the previous lines of the stanza. He personifies daffodils as a ‘crowd’ of daffodils, which is qualified by further personification of daffodils-‘A host, of golden daffodils’.

‘Crowd’ and ‘host’ both contribute to enlighten us about the vastness of the daffodils. This is also highlighted in the fifth line with-‘Beside the lake, beneath the trees’ showing us that they are growing everywhere even by the lake ad under the trees. Other than describing the amount of daffodils he describes the attractive nature of the daffodils. He uses the modifier ‘golden’ to describe the daffodils rather than ‘yellow’ to suggest how precious and wealthy the daffodils are. When the poem was first published ‘golden’ was actually ‘A host, of dancing daffodils’ but soon ‘dancing’ was replaced with ‘golden’. This may be because throughout the poem the idea of the daffodils dancing is repeated many times, so ‘golden’ was probably chosen over ‘dancing’ so as not to over-emphasise the idea of the daffodils dancing.

In the last two lines of the first stanza the previous personification of the daffodils is extended with the lexical field ‘fluttering, dancing’. The dancing motion of the daffodils could be linked back to Dorothy’s Grassmere Journals- ‘and the rest tossed and reeled and danced’. The first stanza concludes in rhyming couplets bringing the climax of the first stanza to a conclusion.

In this poem each stanza seems to be based on an element of nature. The second stanza, which, in fact was originally non-existent, is based on the sky and what the sky contains unlike the first stanza that’s based on the countryside. Wordsworth uses the imagery of the ‘never-ending’ sky to reflect the sheer number of daffodils in the field, which he develops from stanza one creating a lexical field of vastness ‘crowd, host, continuous, never-ending, ten thousand’. The second stanza begins with a superlative, a hyperbole and a simile – ‘continuous as the stars that shine’, comparing the number of stars to the number daffodils and the simile is also appropriate to the daffodils as it could compare the shape of the daffodils to the stars, as their shapes are similar. In this stanza a strong and regular sense of rhythm is developed. The rhythm could be linked to the general ‘dancing’ of the daffodils, and the repetition of this key word develops the rhythm even further and reflects the feeling of dancing.

The vastness of the daffodils is again emphasised, by the synonyms: ‘stretched’, ‘continuous’ and ‘never-ending’, especially ‘stretched’ as the extended ‘e’ exaggerates the long strip of daffodils. ‘Never- ending’ and ‘Ten thousand’ are two hyperbolic phrases Wordsworth uses to over-emphasise the amount of daffodils. The hyperbole ‘ten thousand’ is developed further when he follows it with ‘saw I at a glance’, suggesting that with one quick glance he manages to see ten thousand daffodils. Originally the use of the hyperbole ‘ten thousand’ was repeated at the beginning of the third stanza- ‘Ten thousand dancing in the breeze’, coincidentally Wordsworth learnt from Sir George Beaumont in his letters that this was a line that was criticized by poem critics. This, and trying to avoid repeating this hyperbole and also, maybe to concentrate on the daffodils movement, in stanza one alone. The final lines of this stanza are highly rhythmic, and the idea of dancing and the use of the modifier ‘sprightly’ give the idea of and energetic dance, heightening the sense of rhythm.

In this stanza Wordsworth changes the feature of the daffodils from the sheer number of daffodils to the value of the daffodils. To emphasise the great value of the daffodils he compares them to ‘dancing waves’. Here he personifies waves-‘waves beside them danced’ and he creates some kind of competition between the ‘sparkling waves’ and the ‘dancing daffodils’. Wordsworth uses the modifier ‘sparkling’ for a double purpose; it shows the beauty of the waves and also emphasises the beauty of the daffodils as the daffodils ‘Out-did the sparkling waves in glee’, so even though the waves were ‘sparkling’ they still didn’t compare to the beauty of the daffodils.

This shows Wordsworth expressing his joy towards the daffodils, which is further developed by the synonyms of happiness and the impact the appearance of the daffodils had on him compared to the number of daffodils stressed in stanza two. Originally when the first edition of ‘The Daffodils’ was published the synonym ‘jocund’ used in the next line of this stanza, was ‘laughing’, but Wordsworth replaced it with ‘jocund’. The similarity between the alternative word for daffodils- ‘jonquil’ and ‘jocund’ and the fact that this word created a happier atmosphere than the imagery the verb ‘laughing’ creates would probably of contributed to this adjustment.

This stanza contains a lot of punctuation to connect the second and third line he uses a colon, in the fourth line ‘In such a jocund company!’ he uses an emphatic exclamation mark, suggesting he is excited at what he has seen. Wordsworth also incorporates parenthesis into the phrase ‘I gazed- I gazed-‘. The parenthesis and the phrase itself helps to add to the idea of time. The actual word ‘gazed’, suggests him staring for a long time, and the repetition of this verb exaggerates this imagery. The use of parenthesis gives a sense of pausing, stressing how long he looked in astonishment. There is also antithesis between ‘gazed’ and ‘glanced’ used in the second stanza, showing Wordsworth’s ability to skilfully use synonyms of ‘to look’ but they both create completely different atmospheres. We also learn that he doesn’t feel alone anymore, as he personifies the daffodils as ‘company’.

In the final line of the penultimate stanza the idea of the golden value of the daffodils used in the first stanza, reciprocated with the word ‘wealth’ stressing the value of the daffodils. Wordsworth also creates the idea of the daffodils performing a show for him constructing another idea of his happiness brought by the daffodils. This idea is also revealed in the Grassmere Journals where Dorothy Wordsworth describes the day as ‘cheerless and gloomy’ suggesting miserable weather. The bays are also said to be ‘stormy’, which is reflected in the third stanza of this poem. Although the weather was miserable, they found such gayety from the daffodils-which we see reflected many times in ‘The Daffodils’. The third stanza is concluded with a colon suggesting Wordsworth’s ideas are still expanding…

In the final stanza a new time and place is introduced to the readers. In the first line Wordsworth uses the last of two archaic words in this poem-‘oft’ meaning ‘often’, another example ‘o’er’ meaning ‘over’ used in the first stanza. ‘When on my couch I lie’ is included in the first line the final stanza, the word ‘couch’ gives you the imagery of relaxation. This line is developed when Wordsworth uses ‘in vacant or in pensive mood’ in the following line, to represent the state of mind he may be in. This line links back to the simile used at the beginning of the poem ‘lonely as a cloud’ as they also give an air of solitude but they also suggest Wordsworth looking back on his experience, and longing for the lake and the daffodils ‘beside the lake, beneath the trees’.

The following two lines (lines 21&22) reflect on his memory, but the may of not just have been his memories as apparently, Mary Hutchinson or Mrs. Wordsworth was said to have contributed these lines to this poem. It begins with a visual onomatopoeia-‘flash’, which also concludes a lexical field created throughout the poem-‘twinkle’, ‘sparkling’ and ‘flash’ which all create the visual alternative of an onomatopoeia. Further on in this line Wordsworth uses the metaphor ‘inward eye’ which is a metaphorical term for your imagination or memory, as he is now recalling on his ‘inward eye’ to remember the happiness the daffodils brought to him. We can tell how happy he from this memory as Wrodsworth uses synonyms happiness in this stanza: ‘bliss’, ‘pleasure’, reinforces his feelings gained from the daffodils.

He also uses the repetition of the daffodils making him happy when he is in a solitary mood, as on the day he first sees the daffodils he is in a solitary mood, and a solitary mood is suggested in the fourth stanza when he uses the phrase ‘bliss of solitude’. This oxy-moron, also emphasises that he is happy (‘bliss’) even though he may be feeling lonely. This point is again stressed in the penultimate line when Wrodsworth uses the phrase ‘pleasure fills’, contrasting with ‘vacant’ suggesting how much pleasure the memory of the daffodils have brought to him as now he is now full of pleasure as once he was ‘vacant’ and now his ‘heart with pleasure fills’. The poem is concluded with repetition of the daffodils dancing- ‘And dances with the daffodils’. This line creates alliteration with ‘dances’ and ‘daffodils’ and even the ‘dills’ in ‘daffodils’ through a strong iambic rhythm, emphasising the alliterate words. This final stanza creates the sentiment of Wordsworth now feeling full of happiness.

In conclusion I believe that this is a very beautifully written, expression of joy and the joy the daffodils bring to Wordsworth. I believe that this poem inspired future poets and the general public to notice what’s surrounding them. But it is also correct to say that Wordsworth is just another poet set on the bookshelf of inspiration, as there were many poets before who undertook the appreciation of nature and daffodils themselves. An example of this would be Robert Herrick who wrote the poem ‘To Daffodils’ in the 1600s. In it he draws an analogy between the short life of the daffodil and that of a man, which he links his feeling to the sight of the daffodils but not in such a personal and touching way as Wordsworth does. The idea that ‘The Daffodils’ is a reflection of Wordsworth’s own solitary walk through the fields of daffodils makes the poem much more emphatic and you truly believe that just these simple creations of nature can move one person so much that they feel they must tell the whole world through the poem ‘the Daffodils’.

The title is very factual, as just by reading the title we know the location and date of when the sonnet was written. The petrachian sonnet ‘Westminster Bridge’ was composed when Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth stopped along a journey to France so Wordsworth could meet his illegitimate child. This journey could account to the happy mood and feelings of joy of this sonnet and he was also on the way to propose to his future wife, Mary Hutchinson.

The opening lines of the sonnet are very emphatic, created by the iambic pentameter of the sonnet making the beginning words of the first to lines of the octave- ‘Earth’ and ‘Dull’ stressed, making them stand out against the pattern of stressed/unstressed pairs. Further on in the first line of the sonnet Wordsworth personifies the earth when using the metaphor- ‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’. The superlative synonym of beautiful-‘more fair’ suggests that the earth has the best and most impressive things to show in London alone. Wordsworth chooses the phrase ‘more fair’ over the more typical phrase ‘nothing better’ so as to keep the rhyming scheme in pattern as maybe so as not to over-emphasise the idea of the earth being the best. This introductory line is maybe slightly hyperbolic and Wordsworth is making a very bold statement, which is obviously quite biased. The second line develops the emphatic atmosphere already created by the first line. It also develops a feeling that Wordsworth believes so strongly that London that if any man was to challenge his views it would be like admitting your soul is dull.

Once Wordsworth has set the subject of his sonnet he now goes onto justifying why he believes London to be the fairest city in the world. The third line-‘A sight so touching in its majesty’ creates the idea of London being so regal and ‘majestic’ that it is like a monarch. Wordsworth also uses the adjective ‘touching’ to express the idea of how he has been moved by the beauty of London. Wordsworth was not the first poet to refer to London as royalty; John Dryden used this technique in his poem ‘The New London’. In his poem he personifies London as a ‘Maiden Queen’, showing that the regal appearance of London has inspired many poets.

This idea is emphasised even more as Wordsworth places an intensifier before the adjective-‘so touching’. There is also the first suggestion of a sense of sight, which, throughout the rest of the sonnet is the so frequently referred to. The idea of London being regal and important is emphasised part way through the fourth line, by the capitalization of ‘City’-stressing the word and show how Words worth has been ‘touched’ by London’s morning beauty and to him London is not just a city! Through this line and until the end of the octave London is heavily personified as a kingly figure. Wordsworth uses the simile ‘like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning’ to personify London wearing the morning like a robe, or even a monarch’s cloak, developing the idea of London being majestic and kingly.

Wordsworth refers to the idea of ‘beauty’ again, exaggerating how beautiful he feels London appears and creating a lexical field of beauty- ‘beauty’ and ‘more fair’. This shows how the sheer beauty of the city impresses him, and how this touches him and reaches his ‘soul’. The idea of city’s or buildings impressing him by their majestic appearance has actually been recorded in his letters to Sir George Beaumont- ‘huge and majestic form of St. Pauls’. Other poets have often incorporated the idea of St. Paul’s majesty into their poems___________________________________.

The list of adjectives-‘ silent, bare’ create no sense of sound or action, contrasting to the fact that these senses would probably be the most important senses that we depend on the most. Although there seems to be an absence of sound, it, in turn creates sound almost a negative sound, as it is sound created by silence. The list is continued onto the sixth line it shifts to five consecutive nouns-the main architectural features of London creating an outline or silhouette of London-‘Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie’. These nouns also represent the main feature of life-‘Ship’: travel, ‘Towers’: noble houses, ‘Theatres’: entertainment, and ‘temples’: religion. These symbolic elements of the city represent London at this time of the day, contrasting with afternoon period as then it is more people that would represent London at that time of day. This is shown by the fact that so far there has been no reference to people and at this time in the day Wordsworth chooses to respect the beauty of the building and how they contribute to the overall beauty of London.

There is further antithesis in the seventh line, as Wordsworth tries to illustrate to us how these grand buildings ‘Open unto the field, and to the sky’. The idea of the city being exposed to the sky-where the heavens lie-suggests Wordsworth feelings that London is so beautiful it is heavenly, showing again how touched he is by his experience. Wordsworth concludes the octave by stressing the first syllable like he does with ‘Earth’ and ‘Dull’ creating the same emphatic atmosphere again. ‘All bright and glittering in the smokeless air’- here the modifying adjectives ‘bright’ and ‘glittering’ stress the attractiveness of the city at dawn. The third adjective modifier-‘smokeless’, suggests the idea of a clear, beautiful and calm atmosphere as the sky is empty of all the smoke caused by the man-made industry as it is too early in the morning for the furnaces, factories and bakeries e.t.c, are working.

Throughout the octave a picture of London is painted but as you move into the sestet, which shows the poets feelings and reactions to what he, has seen. It begins with the superlative and emphatic word ‘Never’, showing a parallel between the octave and the sestet as they both began with the same structure. There is also a repetition of synonyms of beauty-‘beautifully’ and ‘splendour’ used in the tenth line. Wordsworth also uses the metaphor- ‘sun more beautifully steep’, creating the imagery of the sun rising and literally soaking the Earth in light. The tenth line also uses tripling when listing natural features-‘valley, rock, or hill’, comparing and contrasting the list of man-made features in the octave and the listing of natural features in the sestet. The third line of the sestet begins with ‘Ne’er’ an archaic version of ‘Never’, repeating the word ‘Never’ even though they are in different forms of language they both manage to create and emphatic and persuasive impression. ‘Never’ is also repeated again further on in this line again emphasising the idea that this is the first time there has ever been a city this beautiful. The third lines also introduces the first mention of a narrator by the use of the first person-‘ Ne’er saw I, never felt,’ here there is a use of parenthesis and the idea of this experience moving and touching him his repeated. This is followed by ‘calm so deep’; suggesting the tranquillity of the city, and the use of an intensifier stresses the idea of tranquillity.

Wordsworth also uses an emphatic exclamation mark, which adds to the atmosphere, showing his strong feelings. The sestet seems a lot more emphatic than the octave through the usage of intensifiers, exclamation marks and the repetition of the adverb ‘Never’ through which he is expressing his own opinions and feelings. The fourth line of the sestet begins with the personification of the River Thames with ‘The river glideth at his own sweet will’, referring to the Thames as a person. In this line Wordsworth also develops this on-going lexical field of beauty with the modifier-‘sweet’. There is also another lexical field qualified in this line, words suggesting leisurely movement-‘glideth, steep, calm’ and ‘deep’ all add to the tranquil atmosphere of the city at dawn. The verb ‘glideth’ represents the slow movement of the river and again adds to the tranquillity of the city. From this you can detect Wordsworth’s surprise in seeing such a, normally busy city, so serene and motionless.

In the penultimate line of the sestet and of the whole sonnet, Wordsworth links his experience and feelings of the beautifully calm city to religious and spiritual feelings as he addresses his thoughts to God-‘Dear God!’. Wordsworth follows this by personifying the houses as asleep-‘the very houses seem asleep’. The concluding line of ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’- ‘And all that mighty heart is lying still!’ we are reminded of the ‘majesty’ of London with the modifier ‘mighty’. There is also an extension of the personification of the city as a royal person as Wordsworth provides it with a ‘mighty heart’. The ‘heart’ is a vital organ, placed in the centre of the human body, just as a capital city is essential to the life of a country-London is essential to the life of the United Kingdom.

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William Wordsworth. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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