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    • POEM: I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud by William Wordsworth (12/19/2007 2:54:00 PM)

      For me, this poem represents an anxious attempt to be happy in the face of the unbreachable walls of the individual subjectivity. 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' should be your first tip that the poet is in a sort of self-isolation, not a physical isolation. This may seem obvious, but I think it informs any reading of the poem: How many times do you see one cloud? Not very often if ever. Clouds typically come in packs. A host of daffodils. A host of clouds. Why are the clouds lonely? Why do these daffodils emote? They're flowers! Flowers don't dance. People dance. Animals too, I suppose (dancing bears? bird mating dances?) , but these flowers are just being moved around by the breeze. Again it's the narrator's subjectivity that causes them to dance. The narrator inscribes each flower with his subjectivity. This is the only way he can relate to them.

      Think about the other name for daffodills: 'narcissus.' Considering the education that Wordsworth got in 19th Century England (one endowed with a wealth of classical literature) he would have been well aware of the narcissus story and the implications of a daffodil in a poem. If anyone needs a reminder: narcissus is a story about a man who falls in love with his image in a pool of water. He sits staring at his reflection all day long; meanwhile, a nymph thinks he's the most beautiful creature she's ever clapped eyes on so she sits by his side calling his name, trying to get his attention. But he can't or won't hear her. She keeps on calling until her body fades away and all that is left is her voice (echo, echo) . Anyway, narcissus dies staring at himself, never able to come in contact with the one he loves (himself) and missing out on the attentions of a nymph (pretty much the embodiment of desire, of the love-object) .

      But this is what the poet does. The poet romanticizes the world, ie inscribes it with his own subjectivity. Note that, despite the fact that it was so unequivocally beautiful, he didn't think much of it when he first saw it. This should clue you in: actual contact with the daffodils is not the point. Only when he reconstructs the moment with his 'inward eye' does he actually feel pleasure from the experience. The poet is trapped. He cannot feel the world until pulls it through memory (time+imagination) . He doesn't 'dance with the daffodils' until he is alone and can reflect on them, and at this moment, isolated from the actual daffodils, he really only reflects on himself. 'Narcissism! ', you might say. Exactly, I would reply.