The title of my blog comes from William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” more commonly called “Daffodils.” The popular 1804 poem closes with lines that sum up, in simple language, his notion of poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.”
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.
My mother recited that poem and many others as she performed her daily tasks. And soon, as a mimicking child, I had memorized it too. By college I knew all about Wordsworth and his theories of poetry. By graduate school I had rejected most of that, along with my mother and her taste in verse. “Daffodils” seemed too simple and unsophisticated for my then darker, more ironic sensibility. Nature poetry? Dancing flowers? Come ’on.
That’s the wonder of poetry, though, of all good writing. It offers a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected differently at different (st)ages. As I slide into late middle age, newly awakened to an artistic life, I find that I love the poem “Daffodils “ once more. I see its meaning anew and the wisdom to be drawn from “that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude.”
With my children grown and a writing career launched outside the confines of daily journalism, the poem seems much less about dancing daffodils, heart-gladdening as they may be, and much more about what yogis call the third eye, the place of insight and intuition.
I hope you’ll bookmark The Inward Eye, check in now and again, and perhaps comment about what flashes upon my inward eye—and yours.
And if you don’t know the poem, here are three favorite renditions:
This read by Jeremy Irons
This satire with Peter Cook as Wordsworth, intro by Dudley Moore as Beethoven.
And a jaunty hip-hop mashup by MC Nuts on You Tube