Thursday

Apr. 15, 2010

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

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.

"I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" by William Wordsworth. Public domain. (buy now)

It's the birthday of one of the greatest blues singers of all time, Bessie Smith, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1894).

It's the birthday of the man who painted the "Mona Lisa," Leonardo da Vinci, (books by this author) born in Vinci, Italy (1452).

It was on this day in 1802 that William Wordsworth (books by this author) was walking home with his sister, Dorothy, and saw a patch of daffodils that became the inspiration for one of his most famous poems.

They were returning from a visit to their friends Thomas and Catherine Clarkson, who lived on the shore of Ullswater, the second largest lake in England's lake district, a beautiful deep lake, nine miles long, surrounded by mountains.

Dorothy wrote in her journal: "When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing."

William was impressed by the daffodils too, but William didn't write anything about them for at least two years, maybe more. No one is sure when he wrote the poem "I wander'd lonely as a cloud," but it was published in 1807. Not only did Wordsworth probably reference Dorothy's journal for inspiration, but his wife Mary came up with two lines: "They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude." William said they were the best lines in the poem.

It's the birthday of novelist Henry James, (books by this author) born in New York City (1843). He wrote about the subtle differences between American and European values and personalities, and what happened when they came together. And he wrote long, complex sentences that critics have spent 150 years trying to deconstruct.

In The Wings of the Dove, he wrote: "It was the accident, possibly, of his long legs, which were apt to stretch themselves, of his straight hair and his well-shaped head, never, the latter, neatly smooth, and apt, into the bargain, at the time of quite other calls upon it, to throw itself suddenly back and, supported behind by his uplifted arms and interlocked hands, place him for unconscionable periods in communion with the ceiling, the treetops, the sky."

Virginia Woolf (books by this author) wrote in 1907: "Well then, we went and had tea with Henry James today ... and Henry James fixed me with his staring blank eye — it is like a child's marble — and said 'My dear Virginia, they tell me — they tell me — they tell me — that you — as indeed being your fathers daughter nay your grandfathers grandchild — the descendant I may say of a century — of a century — of quill pens and ink — ink — ink pots, yes, yes, yes, they tell me — ahm m m — that you, that you, that you write in short.' This went on in the public street, while we all waited, as farmers wait for the hen to lay an egg — do they? — nervous, polite, and now on this foot now on that."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »