Wordsworth’s poem, “Daffodils,” is not just a picturesque poetic painting of a wondrous field of flowers blowing at the bay-shore. This poem is a declaration of the poetic spirit. It captures the “pensive mood” (558, Line 20) and melancholy that invades humanity and the antidote: “the bliss of solitude” (558, Line 22). Wordsworth illuminates one of the core foundations of the Romantic Era in this poem: an inward meditation can bring the poet to a place of beautiful perfection.
Wordsworth illustrates to the reader the poetic spirit through his ability to capture a timeless image in words and with the philosophical construction of the “inward eye” (558, Line 21). While I would love to give William the credit, the construct of the “inward eye” is, as indicated by Duncan Wu, actually created by Wordsworth’s wife, Mary. Thus a Wordsworth did create the convention of the “inward eye.” However, this is a curious thing as it forms the crux of the philosophical convention in the poem. Why would William give way to Mary to write two such powerful lines; lines that nearly form a theory of poetry itself? If these two lines are surgically removed from the poem, the last stanza reads:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,…
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils (558, Lines 19-20, 23-24).
The philosophical treatise on the nature of the poet is lost, but the same Wordsworthian feeling is retained. Without them, the poem still hits the mark with regard to elevating the mood of the poet at the end with the recollection of nature’s beauty. The addition of the “inward eye” and “bliss of solitude,” however, create something more in the poem. They give us a naked glance into the heart of the poet. They give us the inward meditation that leads to beautiful perfection, which is hallmark of Wordsworthian Romanticism. They bear the poet’s soul.
The two lines penned by the female Wordsworth also fascinated Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge wrote, according to Wu, in his notebook (1808-1811):
To flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude –
And to make every thing present by a series of images –
this an absolute essential of poetry, and of itself would
form a poet, though not of the highest class (Notebooks iii 3247).
Coleridge, noting that these two lines form a theory of poetry that is “absolutely essential,” gives credence to the fact that the inward meditation is significant for the poet. Coleridge, however, stops short of glorifying the “inward eye” in saying that such a poet is not “of the highest class.”
Thus, Mary Wordsworth creates something of substantial value to poetry as a whole with her construct of “the inward eye.” This philosophical construct serves as a foundation for the Romantic Era in that the singular poet can reach the “bliss of solitude” of nature via introspective meditation on nature itself: a place of beautiful perfection. My only question about this notion, however, is this: wouldn’t Wordsworth consider the memory of nature to be an imperfect reflection of the original fresh, vivid experience?
Wordsworth, William. “Daffodils.” Romanticism: An Anthology. Ed. Duncan Wu. 4th ed. Malden: Blackwell Anthologies, 2012. 558.
Wu, Duncan. Romanticism: An Anthology. 4th ed. Malden: Blackwell Anthologies, 2012. 558.