Apr. 7, 2005

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

by William Wordsworth

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Poem: "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud," by William Wordsworth.

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.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the singer Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore (1915). She was a young girl when she heard Louis Armstrong sing for the first time. Her apartment in the Bronx was always open to unemployed musicians, and she left a plate on the table that held money for food and subway fares. In her autobiography, she wrote, "Singing songs like the 'The Man I Love' or 'Porgy' is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck."

It's the birthday of the writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, born in Minneapolis (1890). She was a society reporter at the Miami Herald when she discovered the Florida Everglades and its dazzling profusion of plant and animal species. At the time, the idea of preserving a great swamp like the Everglades was considered foolish. If dams were built, large tracts of land could be developed, and everybody would profit. But Douglas wrote about the idea of saving the Everglades just the way they were. She was a short woman, and she wore big glasses, but she was a persuasive writer and speaker, and she succeeded in getting legislation passed to halt further construction.

It's the birthday of the poet Gabriela Mistral, born in Chile (1889). As a young woman, she taught high school all over the country, then went abroad to represent Chile at the League of Nations. She published poetry throughout her career, and she became Chile's most celebrated poet. When she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945, she decided to return home, a place she had not visited for many years. A big parade was held in her honor when she returned to Santiago, but she was more interested in returning to the little town in the Andes where she had grown up. She traveled all day, full of anticipation, but got there too late to see anything. The next day, the whole village came out to dance in her honor.

It's the birthday of William Wordsworth, born in Cockermouth, Cumbria (1770). As a young man, he embraced the politics of the French revolution. The poems in his first collection, Lyrical Ballads, used such fresh and simple words that critics did not know what to make of them. As time went on, he began to worry more about money. He got a government job, and wrote a tourist guidebook about the Lake District. At the end of his life, he accepted the post of England's poet laureate. The younger generation felt Wordsworth had given up every ideal he'd ever stood for. Very late in his life, he wrote letters to the newspaper protesting the extension of the Kendal and Windermere railway into the Lake District. He said it would bring hordes of working-class tourists into a beautiful place they hadn't been trained to appreciate properly. The railway line was not extended, and to this day there is no rail service inside the Lake District.

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