I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, written by William Wordsorth in 1804, describes the poet’s own experience based on his recollection in tranquility. In the poem, daffodils appears everywhere. Some people think the daffodils here represent the beauty of nature and the poet’s love for daffodils is also the enthusiasim for nature. But I think daffodils here not only represent the nature but alos a peaceful and pure world, which the poet pursue. We can get this idea from the poem.
In the first stanza, the poet showed that when he was lonely he saw a crowd of daffodils with surprise. The second and third stanza showed the scene of the beauty of nature. The daffodils fluttered and danced in the breeze. The stars twinkled on the milky way. Then his heart was filled with happiness and pleasure. In the fourth stanza the poet felt his solitude was disappear. But in the same time, the poet thought the daffodils not always around him, the pure and peaceful world not always associated with him.
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He didn’t want to associated with the changing and complex society, he just want to stay with the quiet nature in the Lake District. This thinking also showed William Wordsorth’s conservative characteristic, he didn’t accept the change and escaped from the turbulent political to the peaceful nature. This is the main characteristic of Lake poets. Because William Wordsorth is the pioneer of English Romanticism and also own the characteristic of conservative, he is known as the the representative of Negative Romanticism. What is the Negative Romanticism?
Morse Peckham summarized the divergent themes of Romanticism as “positive Romanticism” and “negative Romanticism”. Where positive Romanticism turns from static mechanism to dynamic organicism, valuing “change, imperfection, growth, diversity, the creative imagination,the unconscious”, the negative romenticism expresses “the attitudes, the feelings, and the ideas of a man who has left static mechanism but has not yet arrived at a reintegration of his thought and art in terms of dynamic organicism”(cited in Schopf,2004).
But, generally, because the Romantic Movement is rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which prized intuition and emotion over Enlightenment rationalism, the ideologies and events of the French Revolution, Positive Romanticism was defined that dare to face reality, to criticize and against the darkness feudal aristocracy, while also reveal the evil of the the capitalist society. So positive romantic writers are always full of resistance, fighting passion, long for a new better and ideal life(some in favor of utopian socialism).
Their lives and artistic all about the bourgeois democratic revolution and most of them were the participants of the movement. However Negative Romanticism is avoiding meetting the sharp contradiction of real society and adopting a negative attitude to escape, and their thinking is linked with the overthrown feudal aristocracy. Negative romantic writers proceed from the campaign against bourgeois, against the reality and linger in the past, the Middle Ages, want to find the spiritual satisfication from the old feudal society.
The emergence of negative romanticism actually is the reflecte of the overthrown feudal aristocracy in literature. Ironically, as a representative of the negative romantic poet, Wordsworth was an positive romantic poet in the earlier times. After he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, from where he took his B. A. in 1791, he spent a summer vacation going on a walking tour through revolutionary France and also travelling in Switzerland, where he became an enthusiastic convert to the ideals of the French Revolution.
In 1792, strongly influenced by the spirit of the French revolution, he returned to England imbued with his principles of Rousseau and republicanism. Maybe, he wrote some positive romantic poems at that time, but because he was not outstanding and famous at that time those poems were not mentioned by public. After returning to England, the situation drastic changed in the French Revolution, Wordsworth disappointed about the bourgeois revolution. In 1795, he and his sister Dorothy and poet Coleridge moved to the northern mountains of the Lake District and spent a lifetime there.
At that time he started to pay attention to the communication between nature and the human spirit, in which he can get sublimated, and found that in fact the theme he interested in was coincided with the traditional religious views, so he converted to the religion again. Meanwhile, in politician he tended to be conservative. He was immeresed in the nature, which he loved deeply with piousness. He treated natural as the paradise of spiritual in order to avoid meeting the meetting the sharp contradiction of real social and escape from the turbulent political to the peaceful nature.
Just like the daffodils in this poem I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, the daffodils implied the nature, and the daffodils can give Wordsworth equanimity and make him fulfllling. He was satisfied with the beauty; howeve, he also worried that he can’t always lived with daffodils, he can’t always enjoy the quiet life. I think at the same time he also expressed the worry that the society was turbulent, now he can escape from it to the nature, but he can’t always keep the quiet life.
He wanted to try his best to avoid meeting the changing and advanced society. His thinking was conventional and partial to the overthrown feudal aristocracy. If you doubt why he changed so much, I can trace the original reason to his blood. Actually, he was a member of the overthrown feudal aristocracy, although he was poor in his young time. The poet Robert Southey as well as Coleridge, also famous for their negative romantic poem, and because they lived with Wordsworth nearby, the three men became known as”Lake Poets”.
Although William Wordsworth was known as the the representative of Negative Romanticism, he received wide recognition and praise. Radical poets such as Li Hengte also praise him as the the pioneer and leader of the new natural poetry and said that his poetry had replace the artificial poetry, the style of the 18th century. The “Lyrical Ballads” also served as the formal announcement of a new literary. Wordsworth also had the effect on Shelley, Byron and Keats.