I wandered lonely as a Cloud (Daffodils)
by William Wordsworth
Analysis: Sound Check
Comparing poetry and dancing is a very old tradition. In Ancient Greece, "lyric" poetry was often performed with music played on a lyre, an instrument like a harp. The French "rondeau" is both a poetic form and a kind of music that people dance to. This is all to say that it’s important that Wordsworth uses the word "dance" once in each stanza of "I wandered lonely as a Cloud."
The poem has a light and delicate sound that reminds us of a dance. It is the dance of the speaker’s heart, described at the end of the poem. Any good dance consists of a central set of movements that are repeated with variations. In a waltz, people go round and round in a circle, twisting and turning and ducking under each other’s arms, but always returning to the place where they began. Even when you do a silly dance like the YMCA, you return to the same motions at every chorus. In this poem, each stanza is like a different variation on the basic rhyme scheme, but it always returns to a center of gravity with the rhymed couplets in the concluding two lines.
The stanzas are like mini-poems that share the same form and subject matter. You’ll notice that there is some kind of punctuation at the end of each one, as if Wordsworth were giving us time to square up and get ready for the next part of the song. The poem’s simple, dancing rhythm could have been influenced by Wordsworth’s love of folk traditions. One thing you might not have known about 19th century people in the English countryside: they loved to dance.