Paraphrasing Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

By: The Nature of Writing

The first step of any analysis should always be some kind of paraphrase. A paraphrase means putting the text in your own words. With a longer text, like a novel, you obviously don't have to rewrite the whole thing, but it's still good to look up difficult words and get a sense of how you would say it -- what it means to you specifically. In this video we're going to do a paraphrase of William Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud," and this is the second video in a series that we're doing, and after this we'll start the actual analysis. So for now we're just going to put this text into some kind of language that we can understand. Fortunately, it's not actually that hard (there's a lot of words that you'll recognize) and Wordsworth starts by saying that he's wandering through the landscape and he feels lonely as a cloud. So this is a simile. We shouldn't take this too literally, but he seems to have some kind of high perspective on the landscape.

"O'er" -- this is a little poetic abbreviation or contraction that means "over," and Wordsworth contracts this so that he can get his syllable count right (for the meter of the poem) "Vales" -- this refers to valleys ... so these are valleys ... just a poetic word for valleys, and then we have "hills." So we can sort of imagine him there floating like a cloud above the landscape, although that's more how he feels then necessarily what's happening.

He sees a bunch of daffodils and he compares them to a crowd, or a host. "Host" is again another word for a great number, a great crowd, of people let's say, and you can see some personification happening here. These daffodils -- they are beside the lake, beneath the trees. There's something kind of funny about this actually, because if he is like a cloud floating over the landscape then how can you see beneath the trees? And you can see here how he's using his imagination -- he's doing multiple things at once. That's not paraphrasing, by the way ... that's more analysis, so we better get back to just summarizing what's happening. Okay, so he sees the daffodils.

They are fluttering and dancing in the breeze. It's definitely a beautiful sight, and then in the second stanza he really zooms out a lot and he starts comparing the daffodils here to stars ("continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way"). The Milky Way is the galaxy that the earth is in, so you could say the earth's galaxy. That really does give it a kind of epic scope doesn't it? "They stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay" -- so the bay here is the lake, and the margin is the edge or the border of the lake. He sees 10,000 of them. It seems like there's ... a tremendous number and this is just a single glance, so it's possible that there are many more, and they are "tossing their heads in sprightly (which means lively) dance." So these beautiful daffodils are dancing very lively in the breeze, and he sees thousands of them beside the lake. Okay, so [it's] a beautiful sight here, and let's see what he says about this in the third stanza.

Paraphrasing Wordsworth's

He writes, "the waves beside them danced, but they outdid the sparkling waves in glee." Glee means happiness, cheerfulness, and in fact we have a whole bunch of words here for happiness (gay also means happy, jocund means happy or cheerful), so he's really pulling out all the stops to show how happy the scene actually is. The waves and the daffodils seem to be in a kind of competition here! They're trying to see who's going to win the award for the best dancing, for the most happiness, and the daffodils definitely win the prize. They "out-did the sparkling waves in glee." They are the happiest. This little word "but" here means something like "except," so a poet who's walking through the landscape can't help but feel happy. I could not except be gay in such a happy company , And again this word "gay" is not our sense of "gay." It's happiness -- that's what we're talking about here. "I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought" -- that's kind of like saying, "well, I looked at the scene, but I really didn't know how special it was at the time. It gave me a kind of wealth. It gave me something special, but I didn't really recognize how wealthy or how rich the experience actually was.

And then we get the last stanza, and the last stanza is more retrospective. It kind of zooms out again, and now there's a kind of time difference here. So it's like a time gap over here between the third and the last stanza. "For oft" -- that means "often," a little poetic shorter version. Again, we want to make sure we have the right meter, the right rhythm to the line . "For oft when on my couch I lie in vacant (that literally means empty; his mind is a blank, his mind is empty) ... in vacant or in pensive (in thoughtful you could also kind of say ..

moody ... or meditative) ... so in empty or in pensive mood (in thoughtful mood) they flash upon that inward eye." The inward eye is the imagination for Wordsworth. You have your outward eye that looks on the world, and then your imagination works together with your memory to bring things back to to your brain basically. So the memory of these daffodils ... flashes upon his imagination or his memory, and that inward eye in turn is described as the "bliss of solitude." Solitude is being by yourself, bliss is happiness, and you know what? The imagination is something that gives you a great deal of happiness when you're by yourself! Then we have the last two lines, and these go "and then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils." Not too hard.

When you remember this beautiful scene, when you recall how lovely it was, then you can kind of have this heart that's full of pleasure and full of enjoyment, and you too can dance with the daffodils. So that's paraphrasing the text and hopefully you found this helped in clarifying just the basic meaning of the poem.

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