Perhaps the key term in the poem is ‘‘lonely,’’ which describes the poet’s state of mind as he walks in nature. He does not say merely that he was alone. He refers to a specific lack of a sense of community, or connectedness. He is isolated, and in the poem he uses the image of a solitary cloud to convey his mood. He is walking in nature, but he feels a sense of separation from other living things, whether human or natural. But then he suddenly catches sight of the endless line of daffodils, and this changes his mood completely. What meets his eye is not merely a static scene. The wind is blowing, which makes the daffodils seem more than usually alive as they are blown about in the breeze. In this scene of great natural beauty, the poet feels happy and restored to life in a certain way. Before, he was lonely, but now he feels cheerful, moved by the beauty of the scene. It seems to him as if nature, as represented by the daffodils, is alive with joy, and he is able to share that joy. There is therefore a connection between the poet and the daffodils that puts an end to his sense of separation.
It is perhaps significant that the speaker identifies himself (in line 15) as a poet, when he states that such a sight could not fail to make a poet cheerful. He does not say that just anyone would have been affected by the scene, or affected in the same way. For Wordsworth, a poet was a man of deep sensibilities who was capable of understanding intuitively the connection between man and nature. To be cut off from that feeling could only be experienced by a poet as a painful lack of something vital. The sudden sight of the daffodils in motion, stirred by the wind, jolts the poet into feeling once more the same life that flows through humans and the natural world. It is a moment of true communion with the spirit of nature, and this is why it restores his spirits.
Memory and Imagination
It is important to note that Wordsworth did not write the poem immediately after seeing the daffodils. Two years passed between the time he saw the daffodils and the time he wrote the poem. What prompted the poem, then, was not so much the experience of seeing the daffodils but the memory of it, recreated by the poet’s imagination at a later date. What this shows is that for Wordsworth, what he calls in the poem the ‘‘inward eye’’ is in a sense more powerful than the outward eye with which he saw the daffodils.
The poet says this quite clearly in the last two lines of stanza 3, which is why the last stanza of the poem focuses not on the daffodils as an immediate sense experience but on the memory of that experience. At the time Wordsworth saw the daffodils, he enjoyed the sight, as anyone would, but he did not realize its true significance until later. In solitude at home, when he is relaxing and in a reflective mood, the sight of the daffodils suddenly comes into his mind again, and once again he experiences a moment of communion with nature; his heart dances with joy just as he remembers the daffodils dancing. The point here is that the really significant moments come not when he is in nature but when he is withdrawn from it. He can recreate the experience for himself without actually going out in nature and seeking a similar sight. The implication is that although nature may, in the poem, be a wonderful sight, the human mind is even more wonderful, since it can summon the experience again when no daffodils are in sight. Indeed, the pleasure afforded by the daffodils, thanks to the power of memory and imagination, has only increased over the intervening two years.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Poetry for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, William Wordsworth, Volume 33, published by Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010