Apr. 15, 2010
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
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.
It's the birthday of one of the greatest blues singers of all time, Bessie Smith, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1894).
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.®