Today I realized a dream that started in a British Literature course over 25 years ago. While I was waited for the professor to get to class, I paged through my Norton Anthology of English Literature for something I could digest in just a few minutes. Most of the verse was either epic length or it just didn’t catch my attention until I came across the words “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” My eyes hungrily read through the glorious poem and my heart was dancing with the daffodils right along with the poet’s at the end.
It was perhaps the first time literature had such a profound effect on me. Upon reading those last lines, pure joy filled my heart and soul. I probably even teared up, as that what happens when my body can’t contain all the joy it feels; it spills out from my eyes. I’ve experienced that overwhelming joy several times in the past few months, including when I saw Michelangelo’s David, the Alps stretching out to the horizon, Kenneth Branagh & Ralph Fiennes on stage, and even the tap dancing bit in “Book of Mormon.”
This perfect poem is the first memory I have of that all-consuming joy. Over and over I read the poem until I had committed it to memory, and I still remember every word to this day:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats 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 a 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 outdid 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.
~ William Wordsworth, 1802
Wordsworth came upon this “host of golden daffodils” while walking with his sister along the shores of Glencoyne Bay near Ullswater, Cumbria, England on 15 April 1802.
Today, on 15 April 2016, two hundred and fourteen years later, those daffodils still dance on the shores of Glencoyne Bay in the English Lake District. My heart filled with pleasure as I wandered lonely in my own blissful solitude, retracing the footsteps of one of the greatest British poets of all time. Wordsworth’s daffodils danced on this grey April day just as he described, but this time they danced for me.