Wordsworth’s daffodils

The Poetry

The words 'Daffodils' and 'Wordsworth' go hand in hand with one another.

The most famous poem in the English language, ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’, was composed in 1804, two years after Wordsworth saw the daffodils while walking along the shore of Ullswater on a stormy day with his sister, Dorothy.

His inspiration for the poem came from an account written by Dorothy in the journal that she was keeping during their time living at Dove Cottage.

In her journal entry for 15 April 1802, Dorothy describes how the daffodils ‘tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake’.  The video below tells the story of how the famous poem came to be.

Wordsworth fist published I wandered lonely as a Cloud in 1807. However, he altered it several times, and the final version, published in 1815, is simply a revision of the original. In the final edition, the word ‘dancing’ was changed to ‘golden’ and a fourth stanza was added – you can compare the two versions below.

First Version

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: —
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing 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.

Composed, 1804
Published, Poems in Two Volumes 1807

Second Version

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on 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 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
Out-did 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.

Published in Collected Poems, 1815

More Poetry

Read more poems by Wordsworth

Read more poems

The People

Dove Cottage adapted for a growing family and was also home to many guests of the Wordsworths.

See the people

The Place

Wordsworth described his new home and the garden surrounding it as 'the loveliest spot that man hath ever found'.

See the place

I’ll never forget the almost religious thrill I got from seeing the notebook where Wordsworth scribbled the first lines of The Prelude
- Seamus Heaney