Abstract: William Wordsworth, as the leading figure of the English Romantic Movement in poetry, has made great contribution in poetic theory. His poetic beliefs and achievements have always been the focus of literary studies. In this paper, his most representative poem “ I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is closely examined to demonstrate how Wordsworth applies his poetic principles to his own creations, especially how Wordsworth realize the fusion of reality and strong emotion in this poem by using his great imagination. Key Words: William Wordsworth, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, poetic principles, language, imagination
William Wordsworth is the leading figure of the English romantic poetry, the focal voice of the romantic period. The most important contribution he has made is in the field of poetic theory. He thinks that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”, and poetry originates from “emotion recollected in tranquility”. His poetic principles are well illustrated in the preface to Lyrical Ballads (Wordsworth, p.159): “The principal object, then, which I proposed to myself in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as possible, in a selection of language really used by men; and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain coloring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.” Here, we can see that Wordsworth actually sets the principles for poetic writing in three aspects: a) the raw material—the scenes and events of everyday life; b) the language—speech of ordinary people; and c) the creation process—using imagination to realize the fusion of the description of the scenes or events with expression of inward state of mind. These principles help to crumble the theoretical foundations of the classical school of English poetry, rejecting the emphasis on the form and an intellectual approach that drained poetic writing of strong emotion, and also inspire a new generation of poets. Therefore, the preface to Lyrical Ballads is regarded as the manifestation of the English Romantic Movement in poetry, and Wordsworth the father of English modern poetry. Wordsworth, for the keen love of nature expressed in his poems, is also labeled as a “worshipper of nature” by many critics. He can penetrate to the heart of things and give the reader the very life of nature. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is one of his masterpieces on nature, which can take us to the core of his poetic beliefs. It is also one of the most anthologized poems in English literature. Thus, in the following, I will examine the poem in detail by reference to Wordsworth’s poetic principles. First, let’s look at the subject matter of this poem. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is based on recollections of the Ullswater scene described by Dorothy Wordsworth, William Wordsworth’s sister, in April 1802. At that time, Dorothy, William and their friends went for a walk along the river. Then they saw a few daffodils close to the waterside, when they went along there were more and more, and at last, they saw a long belt of daffodils along the shore, “they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing. There was here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers a few yards higher up; but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity, unity and life of that one busy highway”. (Bloom, p.276) They were all intoxicated at this scene. Then when returning home, Dorothy recorded this scene in her journal, while Wordsworth recollected the same scene in tranquility and wrote this poem a full two years afterwards. Therefore, it is clear that the raw matter of this poem is just...
Bibliography: 1. Bloom, Harold, ed. Romanticism and Consciousness. New York: Norton, 1970.
2. Gilpin, George H. Critical Essays on William Wordsworth. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1990.
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4. Wordsworth, William. Preface to Lyrical Ballads, With Pastoral and Other Poems. In The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton, 1986.
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