In: English and Literature

Submitted By 7338225
Words 1159
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I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Introduction Shortly after Poems in Two Volumes (1807) appeared, Wordsworth worried about readers misinterpreting "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (Letters 174, 194-95). Still concerned in 1815, he attached a note to the poem in his first Collected Works. "The subject of these stanzas," he asserted, "is rather an elementary feeling and simple impression [...] upon the imaginative faculty, than an exertion of it" (qtd. in Stillinger 539). Some critics have basically followed Wordsworth's lead: To Jack Stillinger the mental experience embodied by the poem is simple and ordinary (544), and to John Milstead the first three stanzas exemplify merely "a physical stimulus-and-response mechanism" through which the poet remains "passive" .

Nevertheless, in the preface to the 1815 collection Wordsworth not only argues that the imagination is ruled by "sublime consciousness" (Stillinger 486), but he also places "I Wandered" among poems categorized by "Imagination." Indeed, many critics ignore Wordsworth's comments on the poem and instead read it as representing a moment in nature of spiritual insight that recurs during a later imaginative re-creation (Joplin 68-69, Stallknecht 81-82, Hartman 5). More precisely, though, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" dramatizes an experience of the sublime in its first three stanzas, which the poet recollects and re-experiences as a "spot of time" in the last stanza.

Like other sublime passages in The Prelude and "Tintern Abbey," this one draws on Edmund Burke's as well as Wordsworth's ideas of the sublime. Burke's thoughts in his Philosophical Enquiry are especially recalled in the lines that Wordsworthadded for the 1815 republication:
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretch in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten…...

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