A word spelled out by rearranging the letters of another word; for example, “The teacher gapes at the mounds of exam pages lying before her.”

A popular narrative song passed down orally. In the English tradition, it usually follows a form of rhymed (abcb) quatrains alternating four-stress and three-stress lines. Folk (or traditional) ballads are anonymous and recount tragic, comic, or heroic stories with emphasis on a central dramatic event; examples include “Barbara Allen” and “John Henry.” Beginning in the Renaissance, poets have adapted the conventions of the folk ballad for their own original compositions. Examples of this “literary” ballad form include John Keats’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” Thomas Hardy’s “During Wind and Rain,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” Browse more ballads.

A long subsection of an epic or long narrative poem, such as Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (The Divine Comedy), first employed in English by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene. Other examples include Lord Byron’s Don Juan and Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

A pair of successive rhyming lines, usually of the same length. A couplet is “closed” when the lines form a bounded grammatical unit like a sentence (see Dorothy Parker’s “Interview”: “The ladies men admire, I’ve heard, /Would shudder at a wicked word.”). The “heroic couplet” is written in iambic pentameter and features prominently in the work of 17th- and 18th-century didactic and satirical poets such as Alexander Pope: “Some have at first for wits, then poets pass’d, /Turn’d critics next, and proved plain fools at last.” Browse more couplet poems.

A brief hymn or song of lamentation and grief; it was typically composed to be performed at a funeral. In lyric poetry, a dirge tends to be shorter and less meditative than an elegy. See Christina Rossetti’s “A Dirge” and Sir Philip Sidney’s “Ring Out Your Bells.”

Dramatic monologue
A poem in which an imagined speaker addresses a silent listener, usually not the reader. Examples include Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and Ai’s “Killing Floor.” A lyric may also be addressed to someone, but it is short and songlike and may appear to address either the reader or the poet. Browse more dramatic monologue poems.

In traditional English poetry, it is often a melancholy poem that laments its subject’s death but ends in consolation. Examples include John Milton’s “Lycidas”; Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”; and Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” More recently, Peter Sacks has elegized his father in “Natal Command,” and Mary Jo Bang has written “You Were You Are Elegy” and other poems for her son. In the 18th century the “elegiac stanza” emerged, though its use has not been exclusive to elegies. It is a quatrain with the rhyme scheme ABAB written in iambic pentameter. Browse more elegies.

A long narrative poem in which a heroic protagonist engages in an action of great mythic or historical significance. Notable English epics include Beowulf, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (which follows the virtuous exploits of 12 knights in the service of the mythical King Arthur), and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which dramatizes Satan’s fall from Heaven and humankind’s subsequent alienation from God in the Garden of Eden. Browse more epics.

A pithy, often witty, poem. See Walter Savage Landor’s “Dirce,” [link to archived poem] Ben Jonson’s “On Gut,” [link to archived poem] or much of the work of J.V. Cunningham [link to poet page]:

       This Humanist whom no beliefs constrained
       Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.

A letter in verse, usually addressed to a person close to the writer. Its themes may be moral and philosophical, or intimate and sentimental. Alexander Pope favored the form; see his “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,” in which the poet addresses a physician in his social circle. The epistle peaked in popularity in the 18th century, though Lord Byron and Robert Browning composed several in the next century; see Byron’s “Epistle to Augusta.” Less formal, more conversational versions of the epistle can be found in contemporary lyric poetry; see Hayden Carruth’s “The Afterlife: Letter to Sam Hamill” or “Dear Mr. Fanelli” by Charles Bernstein. Browse more epistles.

A short poem intended for (or imagined as) an inscription on a tombstone and often serving as a brief elegy. See Robert Herrick’s “Upon a Child That Died” and “Upon Ben Jonson”; Ben Jonson’s “Epitaph on Elizabeth, L. H.”; and “Epitaph for a Romantic Woman” by Louise Bogan.

Fixed and unfixed forms
Poems that have a set number of lines, rhymes, and/or metrical arrangements per line. Browse all terms related to forms, including alcaics, alexandrine, aubade, ballad, ballade, carol, concrete poetry, double dactyl, dramatic monologue, eclogue, elegy, epic, epistle, epithalamion, free verse, haiku, heroic couplet, limerick, madrigal, mock epic, ode, ottava rima, pastoral, quatrain, renga, rondeau, rondel, sestina, sonnet, Spenserian stanza, tanka, tercet, terza rima, and villanelle

Free verse
Nonmetrical, nonrhyming lines that closely follow the natural rhythms of speech. A regular pattern of sound or rhythm may emerge in free-verse lines, but the poet does not adhere to a metrical plan in their composition. Matthew Arnold and Walt Whitman explored the possibilities of nonmetrical poetry in the 19th century. Since the early 20th century, the majority of published lyric poetry has been written in free verse. See the work of William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and H.D.  Browse more free-verse poems.

Any poem expressing deep grief, usually at the death of a loved one or some other loss. Related to elegy and the dirge. See “A Lament” by Percy Bysshe Shelley; Thom Gunn’s “Lament”; and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Lament.”

Light verse
Whimsical poems taking forms such as limericks, nonsense poems, and double dactyls. See Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat” and Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Other masters of light verse include Dorothy Parker, G.K. Chesterton, John Hollander, and Wendy Cope.

A fixed light-verse form of five generally anapestic lines rhyming AABBA. Edward Lear, who popularized the form, fused the third and fourth lines into a single line with internal rhyme. Limericks are traditionally bawdy or just irreverent; see “A Young Lady of Lynn” or Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard.” Browse more limericks.

Originally a composition meant for musical accompaniment. The term refers to a short poem in which the poet, the poet’s persona, or another speaker expresses personal feelings. See Robert Herrick’s “To Anthea, who May Command Him Anything,” John Clare’s “I Hid My Love,” Louise Bogan’s “Song for the Last Act,” or Louise Glück’s “Vita Nova.”

Mock epic
A poem that plays with the conventions of the epic to comment on a topic satirically. In “Mac Flecknoe,” John Dryden wittily flaunts his mastery of the epic genre to cut down a literary rival. Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” recasts a petty high-society scandal as a mythological battle for the virtue of an innocent.

Occasional poem
A poem written to describe or comment on a particular event and often written for a public reading. Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” commemorates a disastrous battle in the Crimean War. George Starbuck wrote “Of Late” after reading a newspaper account of a Vietnam War protester’s suicide. Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day” was written for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. See also elegy, epithalamion, and ode.

An eight-line stanza or poem. See ottava rima and triolet. The first eight lines of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet are also called an octave.

A formal, often ceremonious lyric poem that addresses and often celebrates a person, place, thing, or idea. Its stanza forms vary. The Greek or Pindaric (Pindar, ca. 552–442 B.C.E.) ode was a public poem, usually set to music, that celebrated athletic victories. (See Stephen Burt’s article “And the Winner Is . . . Pindar!”) English odes written in the Pindaric tradition include Thomas Gray’s “The Progress of Poesy: A Pindaric Ode” and William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood.” Horatian odes, after the Latin poet Horace (65–8 B.C.E.), were written in quatrains in a more philosophical, contemplative manner; see Andrew Marvell’s “Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.” The Sapphic ode consists of quatrains, three 11-syllable lines, and a final five-syllable line, unrhyming but with a strict meter. See Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “Sapphics.”

The odes of the English Romantic poets vary in stanza form. They often address an intense emotion at the onset of a personal crisis (see Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode,”) or celebrate an object or image that leads to revelation (see John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “To Autumn”). Browse more odes.

A poem of effusive praise. Its origins are Greek, and it is closely related to the eulogy and the ode. See Ben Jonson’s “To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare” or Anne Bradstreet’s “In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth.”

Verse in the tradition of Theocritus (3 BCE), who wrote idealized accounts of shepherds and their loves living simple, virtuous lives in Arcadia, a mountainous region of Greece. Poets writing in English drew on the pastoral tradition by retreating from the trappings of modernity to the imagined virtues and romance of rural life, as in Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar, Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” and Sir Walter Ralegh’s response, “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” The pastoral poem faded after the European Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, but its themes persist in poems that romanticize rural life or reappraise the natural world; see Leonie Adams’s “Country Summer,” Dylan Thomas’s “Fern Hill,” or Allen Ginsberg’s “Wales Visitation.” Browse more pastoral poems.

Prose poem
A prose composition that, while not broken into verse lines, demonstrates other traits such as symbols, metaphors, and other figures of speech common to poetry. See Amy Lowell’s “Bath,” “Metals Metals” by Russell Edson, “Information” by David Ignatow, and Harryette Mullen’s “[Kills bugs dead.]” Browse more prose poems.

A four-line stanza, rhyming
-ABAC or ABCB (known as unbounded or ballad quatrain), as in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
-AABB (a double couplet); see A.E. Housman’s “To an Athlete Dying Young.” 
-ABAB (known as interlaced, alternate, or heroic), as in Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” or “Sadie and Maud” by Gwendolyn Brooks.
-ABBA (known as envelope or enclosed), as in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” or John Ciardi’s “Most Like an Arch This Marriage.”
-AABA, the stanza of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

A phrase or line repeated at intervals within a poem, especially at the end of a stanza. See the refrain “jump back, honey, jump back” in Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “A Negro Love Song” or “return and return again” in James Laughlin’s “O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again.” Browse poems with a refrain.

French in origin, a genre of long narrative poetry about medieval courtly culture and secret love. It triumphed in English with tales of chivalry such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” and Troilus and Criseyde.

A 14-line poem with a variable rhyme scheme originating in Italy and brought to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey in the 16th century. Literally a “little song,” the sonnet traditionally reflects upon a single sentiment, with a clarification or “turn” of thought in its concluding lines.

The Petrarchan sonnet, perfected by the Italian poet Petrarch, divides the 14 lines into two sections: an eight-line stanza (octave) rhyming ABBAABBA, and a six-line stanza (sestet) rhyming CDCDCD or CDEEDE. John Milton’s “When I Consider How my Light Is Spent” and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee” employ this form.

The Italian sonnet is an English variation on the traditional Petrarchan version. The octave’s rhyme scheme is preserved, but the sestet rhymes CDDCEE. See Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where Is an Hind” and John Donne’s “If Poisonous Minerals, and If That Tree.”

Wyatt and Surrey developed the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet, which condenses the 14 lines into one stanza of three quatrains and a concluding couplet, with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG (though poets have frequently varied this scheme; see Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth”). George Herbert’s “Love (II),” Claude McKay’s “America,” and Molly Peacock’s “Altruism” are English sonnets.

These three types have given rise to many variations, including:

-The caudate sonnet, which adds codas or tails to the 14-line poem. See Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire.”

-The curtal sonnet, a shortened version devised by Gerard Manley Hopkins that maintains the proportions of the Italian form, substituting two six-stress tercets for two quatrains in the octave (rhyming ABC ABC), and four and a half lines for the sestet (rhyming DEBDE), also six-stress except for the final three-stress line. See his poem “Pied Beauty.”

-The sonnet redoublé, also known as a crown of sonnets, is composed of 15 sonnets that are linked by the repetition of the final line of one sonnet as the initial line of the next, and the final line of that sonnet as the initial line of the previous; the last sonnet consists of all the repeated lines of the previous 14 sonnets, in the same order in which they appeared. Marilyn Nelson’s A Wreath for Emmett Till is a contemporary example.

-A sonnet sequence is a group of sonnets sharing the same subject matter and sometimes a dramatic situation and persona. See George Meredith’s Modern Love sequence, Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, Rupert Brooke’s 1914 sequence, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese.

-The Spenserian sonnet is a 14-line poem developed by Edmund Spenser in his Amoretti, that varies the English form by interlocking the three quatrains (ABAB BCBC CDCD EE).

-The stretched sonnet is extended to 16 or more lines, such as those in George Meredith’s sequence Modern Love. 

-A submerged sonnet is tucked into a longer poetic work; see lines 235-48 of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.

Syllabic verse
Poetry whose meter is determined by the total number of syllables per line, rather than the number of stresses. Marianne Moore’s poetry is mostly syllabic. Other examples include Thomas Nashe’s “Adieu, farewell earth’s bliss” and Dylan Thomas’s “Poem in October.” Browse more poems in syllabic verse.

A poetic unit of three lines, rhymed or unrhymed. Thomas Hardy’s “The Convergence of the Twain” rhymes AAA BBB; Ben Jonson’s “On Spies” is a three-line poem rhyming AAA; and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” is written in terza rima form. Examples of poems in unrhymed tercets include Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man” and David Wagoner’s “For a Student Sleeping in a Poetry Workshop.”

As a mass noun, poetry in general; as a regular noun, a line of poetry. Typically used to refer to poetry that possesses more formal qualities.

Verse paragraph
A group of verse lines that make up a single rhetorical unit. In longer poems, the first line is often indented, like a paragraph in prose. The long narrative passages of John Milton’s Paradise Lost are verse paragraphs. The titled sections of Robert Pinsky’s “Essay on Psychiatrists” demarcate shifts in focus and argument much as prose paragraphs would. A shorter lyric poem, even when broken into stanzas, could be considered a single verse paragraph, insofar as it expresses a unified mood or thought; see Gail Mazur’s “Evening.”






Curious about poetry, but don’t know where or how to begin? We’ve reprinted the first chapter from the book How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch. Its 16 sections provide strategies for reading poems, and each section has plenty of links to examples of poems in our archive to illustrate the points.

Poems are like messages in a bottle sent out with little hope of finding a recipient. Those of us who find and read poems become their unknown addresses.

To the Reader Setting Out
The reader of poetry is a kind of pilgrim setting out. To read a poem is to depart from the familiar, to leave all expectations behind.

In the Beginning is the Relation
A lyric poem is a special communiqué between an I and a You. It speaks out of a solitude to a solitude; it begins and ends in silence.

Stored Magic
The lyric poem seeks to mesmerize time. It crosses frontiers and outwits the temporal. It can bridge the gulf between people otherwise unknown to each other.

The Immense Intimacy, the Intimate Immensity
The experience of reading poetry and the kind of knowledge it provides cannot be duplicated elsewhere.

Mere Air, These Words, but Delicious to Hear
From syllable to word to phrase to sentence, the sound of poetry is the source of its primitive pleasures.

In Plain American Which Cats and Dogs Can Read!
A lyric poem walks the line between speaking and singing. Poetry is not speech exactly and yet it is always in relationship to speech, to the spoken word.

Give a Common Word the Spell
The medium of poetry is language, our common property. It belongs to no one and to everyone. The precision of poetry restores language. It also defamiliarizes words by wrenching them from familiar or habitual contexts.

Metaphor: A Poet is a Nightingale
Metaphor drives the engine of poetry. Figurative language—figures of speech and thought—guides the interaction between poet and reader.

Epic, Drama, Lyric: Be Plentiful Like the Universe
Poems may be epic, lyric, dramatic, or a mixture of the three. Most poems find a way to defy these conventional categories.

Harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers
The lyric poem began as a work to be performed, to be sung or read aloud. Over time, the lyric transformed into a work for the page, for the reader to imagine in visual terms.

Winged Type
The poem appeals to the eye. It has a shapely dimension and thus relates to the plastic arts, especially painting. The poem is something to look at as well as to recite.

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
Rhythm is a form cut into time, as Ezra Pound said in ABC of Reading. It is the combination in English of stressed and unstressed syllables that creates a feeling of fixity and flux, of surprise and inevitability.

The Wave Always Returns
The poem is a muscular and composed thing. It moves like a wave, dissolving the literal. We participate in its flow as it moves from the eye to the ear, to the inner ear, the inner eye.

Help Me, O Heavenly Muse
Where does a poem come from? The sources of inspiration are many, from reason to a touch of madness.

It Is Something of an Accident That You Are the Reader and I the Writer
Reading poetry calls for an active reader. The reader must imaginatively collaborate with a poem to give voice to it.



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The poem ‘Daffodils’, also known by the title ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, is a lyrical poem written by William Wordsworth in 1804. William Wordsworth is a well-known romantic poet who believed in conveying simple and creative expressions through his poems. He once said, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility”. William Wordsworth wrote Daffodils on a stormy day in spring, while walking along with his sister Dorothy near Ullswater Lake, in England. He imagined that the daffodils were dancing and invoking him to join and enjoy the breezy nature of the fields.
Let us now read this poem…..MORE…DAFFODILS 101


In the first stanza the speaker describes a time when he meandered over the valleys and hills, “lonely as a cloud.” Finally, he came across a crowd of daffodils stretching out over almost everything he could see, “fluttering and dancing in the breeze”:

    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.

In the second stanza the speaker goes into more detail about the daffodils. They reminded him of the Milky Way, because there were so many flowers packed together that they seemed to be never ending. The speaker guesses that there were ten thousand daffodils, which were “Tossing their heads in sprightly dance”:

    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.

In the third stanza the speaker compares the waves of the lake to the waves of daffodils and decides that even though the lake is “sparkling,” the daffodils win because they have more “glee.” He then comments that he, like any other poet, could not help but be happy “in such a jocund company.” He looked at the scene for a long time, but while he was there he was unable to understand what he had gained from the experience:

    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:

In the fourth and final stanza the poet describes what he gained from the experience. Afterwards, when he was lonely or feeling “pensive,” he could remember the daffodils, seeing them with his “inward eye,” and be content:

    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.


“I wandered lonely as a cloud” takes place in the Lake District of Northern England. The area is famous for its hundreds of lakes, gorgeous expanses of springtime daffodils, and for being home to the “Lakeland Poets”: William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, and Robert Southey.

This poem, obviously inspired by Wordsworth’s stomping grounds, is well-loved because of its simple yet beautiful rhythms and rhymes, and its rather sentimental topic. The poem consists of four six-line stanzas, each of which follow an ababcc rhyme scheme and are written in iambic tetrameter, giving the poem a subtle back-and-forth motion that recalls swaying daffodils.

By comparing himself to a cloud in the first line of the poem, the speaker signifies his close identification with the nature that surrounds him. He also demonstrates this connection by personifying the daffodils several times, even calling them a “crowd” as if they are a group of people.

The idea of remembering the beauty of nature even when not in its presence appears in several of Wordsworth’s later poems, including “Tintern Abbey,” “Ode; Intimations of Immortality,” and “The Solitary Reaper.” Even though the speaker is unable to appreciate the memory he is creating as he stands in the field, he later realizes the worth that it takes on in sad and lonely moments.


In A Nutshell

The official Wordsworth Museum bills “I wander lonely as a cloud” as William Wordsworth’s “most famous poem about daffodils,” which is a bit like referring to Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem about ravens. We kid. But seriously, Wordsworth did not write many poems about daffodils. This is, however, a very well-known poem, in part because it’s so darned cheery. In very plain language, it describes how the speaker’s loneliness is cured by a field of daffodils – you know, the yellow flowers with the center that looks a bit like a trumpet horn (see slideshow above). Many people know this poem simply as “Daffodils,” but the title is actually “I wandered lonely as a Cloud.”

Wordsworth is a British poet who is associated with the Romantic movement of the early 19th century. He lived in the picturesque Lake District in England. The poem is based on an experience that he had with his sister and constant companion, Dorothy, on April 15, 1802. Fortunately for us, Dorothy kept a journal, and she wrote about the day that she and her brother unexpectedly came across a “crowd” of daffodils:

The wind was furious… the Lake was rough… When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. (source)

As the journal notes, it was a stormy day, which you’d never guess from reading the poem. She later writes that it rained on them, and they had to go home.

Wordsworth didn’t write this poem until 1804, and it was published in 1807 in Poems in Two Volumes. He revised the poem and published it again in his Collected Poems, which is the version most people read today. With its expressions of joy and unity with nature, the poem is destined to remain a classic. It is typical of Wordsworth’s revolutionary style of writing poetry in ordinary, everyday language.

Why Should I Care?

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud” describes an experience you’ve probably had: you’re bummed out, maybe because of something that happened in a relationship or maybe because it’s a nasty day outside, and suddenly you see something that just makes you smile and feel good again. And that’s pretty much the main idea right there. You won’t find any earth-shattering revelations of truth. Wordsworth felt that the little moments in life could be the most profound. Apparently, many readers agree with him, because they have made this one of the most beloved poems of all time. We think its popularity has something to with how unabashedly joyful it is.

You don’t often find poems as happy as this one. Literature thrives on conflict. You may remember having had to sit through one of those English lectures where every story ever written is broken down into basic conflicts like, “Man vs. Man,” “Man vs. Nature,” and, our favorite, “Man vs. Himself.” Cheesy and simplistic, yes, but with a kernel of truth. Poetry is no less conflict-ridden than your average story or novel. Many poems are about depression, sadness, loss, family trauma, death, etc. But all the conflict in “I wandered lonely as a Cloud” is contained in the word “lonely.” After the second line, the poem is all flowers and dancing. There aren’t even any hidden anxieties buried underneath. Just flowers. And dancing. Did we mention the dancing?

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud” is the perfect poem for a rainy day, and the image of dancing daffodils is a sure-fire cure for a mild case of the blues. Plus, it’s slightly hilarious. Those nodding, bobbing flowers remind us of two funny images: the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the incessantly cheery children from the “It’s a Small World” amusement ride at Disneyland. Take a gander at the poem, and tell us if you agree.


The speaker was walking around through the hills and valleys, but he felt all lonely and mopey. Suddenly, as he passed a lake, he noticed a big group of yellow daffodils waving in the breeze. This wasn’t just some scattered patch of daffodils. We’re talking thousands and thousands around this particular bay. And all these flowers were dancing.

Yes, the daffodils danced, and so did the waves of the lake. But the daffodils danced better. The speaker’s loneliness was replaced by joy, but he didn’t even realize what a gift he has received until later. Now, whenever he’s feeling kind of blah, he just thinks of the daffodils, and his heart is happily dancing.

Stanza 1 Summary

Lines 1-2

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and Hills

  • The speaker describes how he walked around and felt as lonely as a cloud. He doesn’t say, “walked around,” but uses the much more descriptive word “wandered.”
  • “Wandered” means roaming around without a purpose, like when you explore something. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But in its metaphorical use, “wandered” can mean feeling purposeless and directionless in general. As in, you have questions like, “What’s the meaning of my life?”
  • The first concept that we want to take a look at is that the cloud is “lonely.” Asking questions about what this means will help us get into the poem.
  • Are clouds lonely? Well, maybe the ones that float about valleys (“vales”) and hills are lonely. It’s more likely, the speaker is projecting his own loneliness on the clouds. But that still doesn’t explain the strange image, because clouds usually travel in groups. (Except in cartoons where you can have a single rain cloud following Wiley E. Coyote around just to ruin his day.)
  • Maybe a cloud is lonely because it is so far above the rest of the world. Its thoughts are just so “lofty,” and maybe the speaker’s thoughts are, too.
  • Also, the cloud could be lonely because it floats over a natural landscape with no people in it. Maybe the speaker has thought of hills and valleys because he happens to be “wandering” through such a landscape.
  • These are some of the questions we’re hoping the poem will help us sort out after this mysterious beginning.

Lines 3-4

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;

  • Suddenly (“all at once”), the speaker sees a group of daffodil flowers. We tend to think of daffodils as “yellow,” but he uses the more majestic-sounding “golden.”
  • He calls them a “crowd,” so they must be packed tightly together. Then he elaborates on “crowd” by adding the noun “host.” A host is just a big group.
  • Yes, “host” and “crowd” mean pretty much the same thing. Ah, but that’s where the connotations come in, those vague associations that attach to certain words. A “crowd” is associated with groups of people, while “host” is associated with angels, because people often refer to a “host of angels.” Coupled with the description of their angelic “golden” color, we seem to be dealing with some very special daffodils.

Lines 5-6

Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze

  • He sees the daffodils beside a lake and underneath some trees. It’s a breezy day, and the flowers “flutter” and “dance” on their stems.
  • Maybe now is a good time to step outside the poem for just a second to note that Wordsworth lived in a part of England known as the Lake District, which is filled with lots of hills, valleys and, of course, lakes. We can assume he’s walking in a fairly remote and wild part of the countryside.
  • Now, back to the poem. “Fluttering” suggests flight, which could bring us back to the angels or even birds or butterflies. “Dancing” is something that usually only humans do. The daffodils are given the qualities of humans and also of some kind of otherworldly creatures, perhaps.

Stanza 2 Summary

Lines 7-8

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way

  • The emphasizes the point that there are a whole lot of daffodils. More daffodils than he has probably ever seen before. After all, these are flowers that usually grow in scattered groups in the wild or in people’s well-tended gardens.
  • The flowers stretch “continuously,” without a break, like the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, each one gleaming like a star.
  • The comparison to stars provides new evidence that the speaker is trying to make us think of angels or other heavenly beings.

Lines 9-10

They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:

  • Like the Milky Way galaxy, the flowers are roughly concentrated in a line that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see (“never-ending”). They flowers line the shore (“margin”) of a bay of the lake, which must be a relatively large lake.
  • If you’ve ever seen the Milky Way (or the photo in the link above), you know that the galaxy appears to be a band that has more stars and a brighter appearance than the night sky around it. It’s not a perfectly clear line, but more like a fuzzy approximation of a line. We imagine the same effect with the flowers. It’s not as if there are no flowers outside the shore of the lake, but most are concentrated on the shore.

Lines 11-12

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance

  • The speaker takes in “ten thousand” dancing flowers at once. That’s a lot of daffodils.
  • Wow, he’s fast at counting if he knows the number after only a quick glance. But, of course, the speaker is not actually counting, but just guessing. (It’s like when you try to guess the number of gumballs in a jar.)
  • The flowers “toss their heads” while dancing to the wind. By “heads” we think he means the part of the flower with the petals, the weight of which causes the rest of the flower to bob.
  • “Sprightly” means happily or merrily. The word derives from “sprite,” which refers to the playful little spirits that people once thought inhabited nature. “Sprites” are supernatural beings, almost like fairies.

Stanza 3 Summary

Lines 13-14

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

  • The waves also dance in the breeze, but the daffodils seem happier than the waves. We know from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal (see “In a Nutshell”) that the day that inspired this poem was a stormy one, so the waves on this medium-to-large sized lake must have been larger than usual. Maybe they were even cresting into whitecaps.
  • The point is that the entire scene has suddenly been invested with a joyful human-like presence. Since waves do not bring as much joy as the yellow flowers, the flowers “out-did” the water with their happiness.
  • The waves “sparkle,” which creates yet another association with the stars. Everything seems to be gleaming and twinkling and shining and sparkling.

Lines 15-16

A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:

  • The speaker reenters the poem. (We’ve haven’t seen you since the first line, buddy.) Except he refers to himself in the first person, by his vocation, “a poet.”
  • Despite his earlier loneliness, the speaker now can’t help but feel happy, or “gay,” with such a beautiful vision to look at.
  • Or, as he puts at, with such joyful and carefree (“jocund”) “company” to hang out with. The flowers and waves feel like companions to him. They are all pals. Group hug!

Lines 17-18

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

  • The repetition of “gaze” tells us that he kept looking at the flowers for a long time. It’s as if the speaker enjoys looking at these daffodils at the time, but doesn’t realize exactly how great of a gift he has just received with this vision.
  • Apparently, the speaker doesn’t think that he fully appreciated the vision at the time. This is a bit odd, because he seems to be really enjoying those daffodils.
  • The word “wealth” expresses a more permanent kind of happiness. It also carries a hint of money that does not quite fit with the supernatural language that has come before

Stanza 4 Summary

Lines 19-20

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,

  • Now the speaker explains why the daffodils were such a great gift to him. He moves suddenly into the future, back from the lake and the windy day. He’s describing a habitual action, something he does often.
  • First, he sets the scene: he often sits on his couch, kind of feeling blah about life, with no great thoughts and sights. Sometimes his mind is empty and “vacant,” like a bored teenager sitting on the sofa after school and trying to decide what to do. At other times he feels “pensive,” which means he thinks kind-of-sad thoughts. You can’t be both “vacant” and “pensive” because one means “not thinking,” and the other means “thinking while feeling blue.” But he groups the two experiences together because both are vaguely unpleasant and dissatisfying.

Lines 21-22

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;

  • So, often when our speaker gets in these downer moods, the image of the daffodils “flashes” through his mind.
  • The “inward eye” expresses what Wordsworth felt to be a deeper, truer spiritual vision. A person cannot share his or her own spiritual vision completely with others, and so it is a form of “solitude.” But its truth and beauty make it “blissful.”
  • Why does the speaker think of daffodils in exactly these moments? Maybe it’s because the contrast between their joy and his unhappiness is so striking. Nonetheless, the vision is spontaneous, like a crack of lightning.

Lines 23-24

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils

    • When the memory of the flowers and the lake flashes into his head, he feels happy again. It’s almost like the same experience he had while “wandering” through nature at the beginning of the poem, when the real daffodils pushed the loneliness out of his head.
    • The memory of the daffodils is as good as the real thing.

His heart is set to dancing, just like the flowers. He dances along “with” them – they are his cheerful companions once again

The Daffodils (Dance, Dance Revolution)

Symbol Analysis

In “I wandered lonely as a Cloud,” the daffodils are like little yellow people who keep the speaker company when he is feeling lonely. The happiness of the daffodils can always cheer him up, and he can tell that they are happy because they dance. Some variation of the word “dance” occurs in each of the four stanzas. Also, the speaker is taken aback by how many daffodils there are. We often think of daffodils as a flower that people plant in their gardens in the springtime, so it would be surprising to come upon thousands of them by an isolated lake.

  • Lines 3-4: The daffodils are personified as a crowd of people. This personification will continue throughout the poem.
  • Lines 6: Daffodils cannot actually “dance,” so Wordsworth is ascribing to them an action that is associated with people.
  • Line 9: The speaker says that the line of daffodils is “never-ending,” but we know this can’t be strictly true: all good things come to an end. This is an example of hyperbole, or exaggeration.
  • Lines 12: The personification of the daffodils becomes more specific. The “heads” of the daffodils are the part of the flower with the petals. It is larger and heavier than the stem, and so it bobs in a breeze. (When you think about it, it’s kind of amazing how flowers support themselves at all.)
  • Lines 13-14: The waves also get in on some of the dancing (and personification) action, but the daffodils are not to be out-done – they are happier than the waves.
  • Lines 21-24: Wordsworth imagines the daffodils in his spiritual vision, for which he uses the metaphor of an “inward eye.” His heart dances like a person, too.

Clouds, Sky, and Heavens

Symbol Analysis

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud” has the remote, otherworldly atmosphere that is suggested by the title. The speaker feels like a cloud, distant and separated from the world below. But this distance becomes a good thing when he comes upon the daffodils, which are like little stars. It’s as if the problem at the beginning is that he hasn’t ascended high enough.

  • Lines 1-2: The beginning of the poem makes a simile between the speaker’s wandering and the “lonely” distant movements of a single cloud. Clouds can’t be lonely, so we have another example of personification.
  • Lines 7-8: The second stanza begins with a simile comparing the shape and number of the daffodils to the band of stars that we call the Milky Way galaxy.

Angels and Spirits

Symbol Analysis

You have to read into the poem a bit, but we think that Wordsworth is definitely trying to associate the flowers with angelic or heavenly beings. Maybe he was thinking of Dante’s Paradiso from The Divine Comedy, in which all the angels and blessed souls of heaven form a big flower. However, Wordsworth is a more naturalistic (i.e., strictly realistic) poet than Dante, and so the imagery of angels is extremely subtle.

  • Line 4: You may have heard the phrase, “heavenly host” in reference to angels or spirits. We think Wordsworth adds the word “host” in order to suggest this connection. Also, the color of the flowers is golden like a halo.
  • Line 10: Stars are associated with angels, too, so the simile comparing the flowers to “twinkling” stars reinforces the connection.
  • Line 12: The word “sprightly” is derived from the word “sprite,” meaning a local spirit, almost like a fairy

Rhyme, Form & Meter

Rhymed Stanzas in Iambic Tetrameter

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud” has a fairly simple form that fits its simple and folksy theme and language. It consists of four stanzas with six lines each, for a total of 24 lines.

The rhyme scheme is also simple: ABABCC. The last two lines of each stanza rhyme like the end of a Shakespeare sonnet, so each stanza feels independent and self-sufficient. This is called a “rhyming couplet.” There aren’t even any slant rhymes to trick you. Here’s the first stanza with the rhyme scheme labeled:

I wandered lonely as a Cloud (A)
That floats on high o’er vales and Hills, (B)
When all at once I saw a crowd, (A)
A host, of golden Daffodils; (B)
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees, (C)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (C)

The meter is iambic tetrameter, which just means that each line has four (“tetra”) iambs. An iamb is a short, unaccented syllable followed by a longer, accented syllable. Below is an example. We broke up each of the iambs and put the accented syllables in bold font.

I wan|-dered lone|-ly as | a cloud
That floats | on high | o’er vales | and hills.

The meter is regular and consistent, especially compared to many of Wordsworth’s other poems, which have a more conversational sound. All in all, the poem is as tidy and orderly.

Speaker’s Point of View

Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

The speaker is a lonely poet who has learned how to keep himself company by viewing nature as “peopled” by things. The first two lines make him sound almost like the cliché of a Romantic poet: his sensitive and intelligent nature puts him so far above everyone and everything else that he can’t help but feel a noble loneliness. He lives in a rural area and likes to take long walks by himself, which isn’t exactly the best cure for loneliness. Fortunately, the speaker doesn’t stay in this funk for long. He has a vibrant imagination, and can create the effect of having people around him without actually having people around him.

We know that the speaker is a poet because he tells us so in line 15. He speaks in the third person, but we know he’s talking about himself. Also, we have the sense that this poet takes nature to be almost a religion, and he brings intense focus and attention with his “gaze” on nature. He also has an “inward,” spiritual eye that seems more powerful (or at least equally powerful) than his regular vision.


Where It All Goes Down

The poem begins with a single, solitary cloud floating slowly over the English countryside. You don’t often see one cloud off by itself, but that seems to be the case here. The cloud is like a lost child wandering in through a shopping mall: “Would the mother of the lonely cloud please come claim her child!” The cloud floats over a part of the countryside with hills and valleys, so this is not flat farmland. If we were going to bring in Wordsworth’s biography into the mix, we’d say that this is the famous Lake District where the poet lived much of his life. But we’re not going to do that, so we’ll just call it some kind of region (a district, perhaps?) with lakes. You should feel free to come up with your own setting for the poem. Where do you picture the speaker catching this vision of never-ending daffodils?

The main body of the poem is dedicated to the image of the daffodils. They are stretched in a line around the bay of a lake, bordered by the water on one side and trees on the other. The day is windy enough to create waves on the lake, and to make the flowers bob up and down in concert.

At the end of the poem, the setting shifts indoors, to the speaker’s couch, where he sits bored and staring off into space. We’re made to understand that this happens quite frequently. Then we go inside the speaker’s head and see the same image of the dancing daffodils in his spiritual vision, followed the image of his dancing heart.

What’s Up With the Title?

When you read the title as “I wandered lonely as a Cloud,” you might have done a double take. That’s because many people know the poem as “Daffodils,” or “The Daffodils.” The original title merely follows a standard informal practice of using the first line of a poem as its title. But this title is misleading, because you think you’re going to read a poem about loneliness, but then you get a poem about sublime happiness. Still, that’s what Wordsworth wanted, so you have to trust the man.

Some editors apparently thought the poem’s title should more accurately convey what the poem is about, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “The Daffodils.” The poem is included in many anthologies, including Francis Palgrave’s 1875 collection The Golden Treasury under the title of “The Daffodils.”

For more notes on  themes,symbols,sample quotes and sample questions please download from here...DAFFODILS 102


Question: Discuss Imagery in William Wordsworth’s Daffodils

Answer:The poem paints a picture (image) of the persona taking a stroll and feeling lonely. “I wondered lonely as a cloud”. This brings to bear the solitary state that persona finds himself in. And all of a sudden, he stumbles upon a field of golden daffodils.

The sight of the daffodils bedazzles the persona and puts him in a trance of delight as they stretch in never ending lines, tossing their heads in the breeze in a sprightly dance along the shore.Though the waves of the lake danced beside the flowers, the daffodils outdid the water in glee. The persona enthralled could not help but be happy in such a joyful company of flowers.

The poem paints images of lakes, fields, trees, stars which come together to change the persona’s mood from that of gloom to bliss.The poet continuously praises the daffodils, comparing them to the Milky Way galaxy (in the second stanza), their dance (in the third stanza) and in the concluding stanza, puts the poet in a reflective mood and cannot resist himself from participating in the dance of the daffodils.

By Adjei Agyei-Baah















It is no longer news that Ghanaianborn and Africa’s literary icon, Professor Kofi N. Awoonor, 78, is no more. The cold hands of death snatched him away recently in Kenya, while on a trip to do what he knew how to do best: contributing to literature. Awoonor was among the unfortunate victims of the Nairobi Westgate Shopping Mall attack of Saturday, September 21. His life was cut short by the Al-Shabaab assassins’ bullets. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist group that had reigned in Somalia for years until African Union forces pushed it out of the political scene about two years ago, has a strong link with the mother of all terrorist groups worldwide, the Al-Qaeda. The group (Al-Shabaab) was carrying out reprisals on Kenya and other nations in the Horn of Africa that had in the last 24 months, joined forces to frustrate their Islamist cause and operations.On that ill-fated day that Awoonor was shot dead, 69 persons were reportedly killed in the attack, some of who were tourists, fun-seekers, couples, family members, the aged, children, and persons of diverse races and backgrounds. The terrorists had reportedly alerted Muslims in the mall to flee the building before their phased shootings and bombings began, apparently suggesting that they (attackers) were pursuing an extremist Islamic agenda. Unfortunately, Professor Awoonor was one of those felled by the bullets, thus bringing to an abrupt and sad end his golden career in writing, poetry and social commentaries.Professor Awonoor, who always wrote under the name, George Awoonor-Williams, was Ghana’s foremost poet and author, whose works were a blend of the poetic traditions of the Ewe (his ethnic group) and modern religious symbolism to picture Africa during the era of decolonisation. Born at a time when Ghana was still colonially referred to as the Gold Coast, Awoonor attended the famous Achimota College, an institution reputed for producing top-flight academics in Ghana in the heyday, where he passed in flying colours and proceeded to the University of Ghana, Legon. In the course of his rewarding teaching career, Awoonor taught African Literature at the University of Ghana. While at the institution, he wrote his first poetry book, ‘Rediscovery’, a work based on African oral poetry, which was published in 1964. As one of the founding fathers of the Ghanaian movie industry, he also managed the Ghana Film Corporation and founded the Ghana Play House.

The fallen Awoonor took his literary prowess offshore when he went to the University of London to study Literature. While in London, he wrote several short plays for the BBC, which were aired on the radio. In the early 1970s, Awoonor spent much of his time studying and teaching in the United States, where he wrote ‘This Earth, My Brother’, and ‘My Blood’. On his return to Ghana in 1975, Awoonor got employment at the University of Cape Coast, where he rebuilt the English Department. His foray into national politics began from the said university, from where he was arrested for allegedly being an accomplice in a plot to topple the then military government, a situation that led to his arrest without trial for months; and which inspired his work ‘The House by the Sea’, in which he narrated his incarceration experience.

This singular experience launched Kofi to the limelight and made him politically more conscious and active. He began to write serious political commentaries; and was eventually appointed as Ghana’s Ambassador to Brazil (1984 to 1988); Ambassador to Cuba (1988-1990); and Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1990 to 1994), where he headed the committee against apartheid. He later became the Chairman of his country’s Council of State. Kofi Awoonor was thus not just another celebrated writer; he rose to become a revered statesman that practised what he preached in his writings. The killing of such a rare gentleman by some bloodthirsty fellows is thus a metaphor of the huge state failure in many parts of Africa. That such an illustrious African son could die in the hands of terrorists hundreds of kilometers away from the serenity of his country underscores a monstrous continental security conundrum that should task African countries and leaders, including their military experts. The international community must also show sufficient interest in securing the African continent, not only for the purpose of ensuring that international business, trade, commerce or other vested interests thrive, but also to make life meaningful for all Africans.

Armed banditry, piracy in the high seas and insurgency on a large scale are the offshoots of the inherent contradictions in the entrenched socioeconomic and political distortions in most African countries. Failure of governance, hegemonic (insensitive) leadership, nepotism and rampant corruption are some of the causative factors. The challenge now is how best to make African leaders responsive, responsible and accountable for their reckless actions, policies and programmes while in or out of power so that more Professor Awoonors would not die in vain.



6.Daffodils (I wandered lonely as a cloud) by WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


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.


5.Upon an Honest Man’s Fortune, by JOHN FLETCHER

YOU that can look through Heaven, and tell the stars,
Observe their kind conjunctions, and their wars;
Find out new lights, and give them where you please,
To those men honours, pleasures, to those ease;

You that are God’s surveyors, and can shew
How far, and when, and why the wind doth blow;
Know all the charges of the dreadful thunder,
And when it will shoot over, or fall under;

Tell me, by all your art I conjure ye,
Yes, and by truth, what shall become of me?
Find out my star, if each one, as you say,
Have his peculiar angel, and his way;

Observe my fate, next fall into your dreams,
Sweep clean your houses, and new-line your schemes,
Then say your worst! Or have I none at all?
Or, is it burnt out lately? or did fall?

Or, am I poor? not able, no full flame?
My star, like me, unworthy of a name?
Is it, your art can only work on those
That deal with dangers, dignities, and clothes?

With love, or new opinions? You all lie!
A fish-wife hath a fate, and so have I;
But far above your finding! He that gives,
Out of his providence, to all that lives,

And no man knows his treasure, no, not you;
He that made Egypt blind, from whence you grew
Scabby and lousy, that the world might see
Your calculations are as blind as ye;

He that made all the stars you daily read,
And from thence filch a knowledge how to feed,
Hath hid this from you; your conjectures all
Are drunken things, not how, but when they fall:

Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early, or too late.

Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still;
And when the stars are labouring, we believe
It is not that they govern, but they grieve

For stubborn ignorance; all things that are
Made for our general uses, are at war,
Even we among ourselves; and from the strife.

OH, MAN! thou image of thy Maker’s good,
What canst thou fear, when breath’d into thy blood
His spirit is, that built thee? what dull sense
Makes thee suspect, in need, that Providence,

Who made the morning, and who placed the light
Guide to thy labours; who call’d up the night,
And bid her fall upon thee like sweet showers
In hollow murmurs, to lock up thy powers;

Who gave thee knowledge, who so trusted thee,
To let thee grow so near himself, the tree;
Must he then be distrusted! shall his frame
Discourse with him, why thus and thus I am?

He made the angels thine, thy fellows all,
Nay, even thy servants, when devotions call.
Oh, canst thou be so stupid then, so dim,
To seek a saving influence, and lose him?

Can stars protect thee? or can poverty,
Which is the light to Heaven, put out his eye?
He is my star, in him all truth I find,
All influence, all fate I and when my mind

Is furnish’d with his fullness, my poor story
Shall out-live all their age, and all their glory!
The hand of danger cannot fall amiss,
When I know what, and in whose power it is:

Nor want, the curse of man, shall make me groan;
A holy hermit is a mind alone.
Doth not experience teach us, all we can,
To work ourselves into a glorious man?

Love’s but an exhalation to best eyes,
The matter spent, and then the fool’s fire dies!
Were I in love, and could that bright star bring
Encrease to wealth, honour, and every thing;

Were she as perfect good as we can aim,
The first was so, and yet she lost the game.
My mistress, then, be Knowledge and fair Truth!
So I enjoy all beauty and all youth.

And though to Time her lights and laws she lends,
She knows no age that to corruption bends:
Friends’ promises may lead me to believe,
But he that is his own friend, knows to live;

Affliction, when I know it is but this,
A deep allay, whereby man tougher is
To bear the hammer, and, the deeper, still
We still arise more image of his will;

Sickness, an humorous cloud ‘twixt us and light,
And death, at longest, but another night!
Man is his own star, and that soul that can
Be honest, is the only perfect man.


It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange, friend,’ I said, ‘Here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None,’ said the other, ‘Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now .


3.The Negro Speaks Of Rivers by LANGSTON HUGHES

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

2. The Soul’s Errand by SIR WALTER RALEIGH (English soldier and statesman, 1554?–1618, just before his execution)

  Upon a thankless errand;    
Fear not to touch the best;    
  The truth shall be thy warrant:    
    Go, since I needs must die,            5
    And give them all the lie.    
Go tell the Court it glows    
  And shines like rotten wood;    
Go tell the Church it shows    
  What’s good, but does no good:            10
    If Court and Church reply    
    Give Court and Church the lie.    
Tell Potentates they live    
  Acting, but oh! their actions;    
Not loved, unless they give,            15
  Nor strong but by their factions:    
    If Potentates reply,    
    Give Potentates the lie.    
Tell men of high condition,    
  That rule affairs of state,            20
Their purpose is ambition;    
  Their practice only hate:    
    And if they do reply,    
    Then give them all the lie.…    
Tell Physic of her boldness;            25
  Tell Skill it is pretension;    
Tell Charity of coldness;    
  Tell Law it is contention:    
    And if they yield reply,    
    Then give them all the lie.…            30
So when thou hast, as I    
  Commanded thee, done blabbing;    
Although to give the lie    
  Deserves no less than stabbing:    
    Yet stab at thee who will,            35
    No stab the Soul can kill.


1.The Sun Rising by JOHN DONNE

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me
Whether both the’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear: ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’is all states, and all princes I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compar’d to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy’as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.


 Mr Adjei Agyei-Baah

Answering Literature-In- English Right (Time with WAEC Examiner, Adjei Agyei-Baah) As Amended Through His Mail Received By Us On 16/2/2014

Dos and Don’ts in Answering Literature-In-English Questions

a. A candidate must note that knowing a poem is one thing and how to respond to questions set on it is another.

b.Candidates must note that knowledge of the selected poems is the basis for a good response.

c.Candidates who often excel and make high scores are those who have read the poems well and recognized the demands of the questions.

Summary of Candidates’ Weaknesses in Answering Poetry Questions

 Candidates’ weaknesses include the following:

 1. Unnecessary account of author’s background (from teacher’s note and circulating commentary books). It’s funny at times how many candidates spend most of their precious time writing a paragraph or a page on the background of the poet. Hardly or never will a question be set to explore such as an area. Candidates must bear in mind that, they get nothing or no mark for such an ‘adventure’ or effort made, and would be advised to go straight into the demands of the question.

2. Candidates narrating poems when they should be discussing, analyzing, examining or explaining specific notions, occurrences, opinion and assertions etc. Candidate must note that narration and discussion are not the same. Narration is to give an account of something whereas discussion means to consider or examine by argument, comment, etc.; talk over or write about, especially to explore solutions, debate etc. Candidates who have often narrates instead of discussing end up mentioning key points in a pass without giving it a detail treatment and end up attracting a low mark or nothing at all. However, narration is accepted only when used to illustrate, prop or buttress points made. But many time, candidates are to examine, discuss or comment on issues, topics with appropriate support from text or poem etc.

3. Poor presentation of work. Candidates must note that every examiner wants a clean and presentable work. The eyes always feed better on attractive things rather than those repulsive and ugly. Systematic/ logical presentation of ideas or materials can compel or deceive an examiners to award good marks especially when hard-pressed with time. Most examiners under limited time duration have often marked ‘strategically’, point by point, paragraph by without scrutinizing scripts to the core. And a candidate who work is jammed, unkempt, and unreadable or disarrayed in flow of thoughts is likely to suffer. And quick to add, candidates must strive to present their points in paragraphs rather than jamming them up in a long ‘thesis’. Candidate who does so is likely to attract more marks. In addition, candidate must note that they have the right to request for unlimited number of answer sheets and must not feel shy to request.

4. Poor Language. Candidate must have it in mind that Literature-in-English is the advance form of English Language and hence language counts a lot when examiners are marking. Examiners do not only mark points or ideas alone but the language use to express thoughts are also considered. Examiners look out for grammar, concord, sequence of tenses, spelling etc. A candidate may capture all the good points in the marking scheme but poor language can still make a candidate acquire a low grade or fail entirely. Literature-In-English and English Language are two bed fellows and candidates must take note of that.

5. Lack of familiarity with poems. The blunders (unpardonable mistakes) that abound in candidates answers often confirm unfamiliarity with the poems. For instance most candidates swap the name of poets or at worse confuses one poem with the other. Many at times have not taken pains to read the poems themselves and have probably relied on commentaries which have not been approved by their instructors. Teachers cannot be left off the hook as some may not teach the poem at all due to lack of time or in their quest of to be selective to save students from committing so much into memory.

6. Failure to focus on questions and their demands. At times candidates show extensive knowledge of the poem but may fail to chain thoughts or ideas properly to respond to questions. Candidates should look for key words such as themes, devices, imagery, diction, mood, tone, setting etc. in questions and respond them appropriately. These are the key words that the examiners frame their questions around. Going outside or beyond these key words often lead to a candidate’s failure.

7. Sketchy Response. At times response from candidates may be shallow, hollow, scanty and sketchy. Here a candidate displays knowledge of the poem but fails to substantiate (support) the points made from the poem. They fail to quote or paraphrase from poem to support points made. In extreme cases, some candidates have itemized/bulleted their answer in response to questions rather than analysing, discussing and commenting.

8. Over-reliance on commentaries and sample questions. Instead of candidates reading, appreciating and enjoying the set poems themselves, several candidates have preferred the shortcut method by solely relying on commentaries and sample answered questions. The candidates sometimes reproduce the exact materials from commentaries without tailoring it to meet the demands of questions.

9. Use of Unintelligent Language and Bad Handwriting. To be honest, bad handwriting puts examiners put off. They mark not for the joy of it but for the meagre money. Sometimes the scripts allotted to them are many and speed and accuracy is needed to meet deadlines. So they may not have the time for the poor hand even though she/he might have written something good. Low or an assumed mark is often given to such a candidate.

10. Adding of extraneous/ irrelevant materials. Candidates many times in their attempt to impress examiners tend to be verbose (wordy) by citing unnecessary examples as support. At times some may veer off to discuss the question in its generality by making references to similar happenings instead of making specific references from the poem in question as support. By doing so, they discuss out of context. Examiners want candidate to refer from the ”poem only” as support but not to see candidates beating about the bush.

11. Deviation or digression from question. This has often resulted from candidates who fail to understand the demands of the question. Most candidates have fallen into this trap as a result of trying to give a complete account of the poem when specifically asked to comment on an aspect such as theme, devices, tone, diction, imagery, setting, mood etc. Candidate must note that they can even be asked to comment only on a dominant device employed, such as personification, contrast, simile, metaphor, irony etc.

Suggested Remedies

1. Candidates must write briefly on introduction and background of poem/poets relevant to the question asked.

2. The specific demands of the question must be the point of focus, merely recounting the event of the novel or poem barely an answers the question which calls for a detailed analysis and appreciation.

3. Candidate should strive to improve their language through reading to better express themselves in their writing and presentation.

4. Acquisition of he selected poems for study. Schools and teachers must ensure that ‘Literature’ students acquire and read the textbooks.

5. The need to raise the standard of teaching literature in schools. Since the standard of literature ought not to be lowered, it is a must that teachers live up to expectation. Teachers need constant orientation and supervision. Besides, teachers who have not interest in poetry should not be allowed to handle it.

6. Teachers should give constant assignment, mark and discuss with their students. They should study the current papers and chief examiners’ reports to enable them to raise students’ standards.

7. Teachers should guide students on the use of commentaries especially the ubiquitous Exam Focus. Teachers must convince their students that their classroom teaching comes before commentaries.

8. Candidate must try to present their ideas in systematic and logical order. Poetry appreciation should be displayed in such a manner that convinces the examiner that they have read and enjoyed studying the poem.

9. The use of apt incidents or experiences of candidates to illustrate, support and buttress points in discussion must be shunned, since candidates are fond of repeating them in their write-ups.

10. http://www.poetryfoundationghana.org/index.php/students/wassce-exams/item/411-answer-your-wassce-literature-right



Themes in The Importance of Being Earnest

The aristocratic Victorians valued duty and respectability above all else. Earnestness — a determined and serious desire to do the correct thing — was at the top of the code of conduct. Appearance was everything, and style was much more important than substance. So, while a person could lead a secret life, carry on affairs within marriage or have children outside of wedlock, society would look the other way as long as the appearance of propriety was maintained. For this reason, Wilde questions whether the more important or serious issues of the day are overlooked in favor of trivial concerns about appearance. Gwendolen is the paragon of this value. Her marriage proposal must be performed correctly, and her brother even practices correct proposals. Gwendolen’s aristocratic attitude is “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” The trivial is important; the serious is overlooked.

The tea ceremony in Act II is a hilarious example of Wilde’s contention that manners and appearance are everything. The guise of correctness is the framework for war. Both women, thinking they are engaged to the same person, wage a civilized “war” over the tea service while the servants silently watch. When Gwendolen requests no sugar, Cecily adds four lumps to her cup. Although she asks for bread and butter, Gwendolen is given a large slice of cake. Her true feelings come out only in an aside that Cecily supposedly cannot hear: “Detestable girl!” Gwendolen is also appalled to find that Cecily is living in Jack’s country home, and she inquires about a chaperone. Wilde gives examples again and again of the aristocrat’s concern for propriety, that everything is done properly no matter what those good manners might be camouflaging.

The Absence of Compassion
Two areas in which the Victorians showed little sympathy or compassion were illness and death. When Lady Bracknell hears that Bunbury died after his doctors told him he could not live, she feels he has — in dying — acted appropriately because he had the correct medical advice. “Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others. Health is the primary duty of life.” Lady Bracknell, like other aristocrats, is too busy worrying about her own life, the advantages of her daughter’s marriage, and her nephew’s errors in judgment to feel any compassion for others. Gwendolen, learning from her mother, is totally self-absorbed and definite about what she wants. She tells Cecily, “I never travel without my diary. One should have something sensational to read in the train.” Wilde seems to be taking to task a social class that thinks only of itself, showing little compassion or sympathy for the trials of those less fortunate.

Another serious subject — religion — is also a topic of satire. While concerns of the next world would be an appropriate topic for people of this world, it seems to be shoved aside in the Victorian era. Canon Chasuble is the symbol of religious thought, and Wilde uses him to show how little the Victorians concerned themselves with attitudes reflecting religious faith. Chasuble can rechristen, marry, bury, and encourage at a moment’s notice with interchangeable sermons filled with meaningless platitudes. Even Lady Bracknell mentions that christenings are a waste of time and, especially, money. Chasuble’s pious exterior betrays a racing pulse for Miss Prism: “Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang upon her lips.” Quickly correcting his error, the minister hides his hardly holy desires in the language of metaphor. Wilde’s satire here is gentle and humorous, chiding a society for its self-importance.

Popular Culture
The popular attitudes of the day about the French, literary criticism, and books are also subjects of Wilde’s humor. Wilde wittily asserts that Victorians believe that nothing good comes from France, except for (in Wilde’s mind) the occasional lesbian maid. Otherwise, France is a good place to kill off and request the burial of Ernest. As the good reverend says, “I fear that hardly points to any very serious state of mind at the last.” Literary criticism is for “people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.” Modern books are filled with truths that are never pure or simple, and scandalous books should be read but definitely in secret. Again Wilde criticizes the Victorians for believing that appearance is much more important than truth. He takes the opportunity to insert many examples of popular thought, revealing bias, social bigotry, thoughtlessness and blind assumptions.

Because Victorian norms were so repressive and suffocating, Wilde creates episodes in which his characters live secret lives or create false impressions to express who they really are. Jack and Algernon both create personas to be free. These other lives allow them to neglect their duties — in Algernon’s case — or to leave their duties and pursue pleasure — in Jack’s case. Very early in Act I, Wilde sets up these secret lives, and they follow through until the final act. When Jack and Algernon realize their marriages will end their pursuit of pleasure, they both admit rather earnestly, “You won’t be able to run down to the country quite so often as you used to do, dear Algy,” and “You won’t be able to disappear to London quite so frequently as your wicked custom was.” Marriage means the end of freedom, pleasure, wickedness, and the beginning of duty and doing what is expected. Of course, Jack and Algernon could continue to don their masks after they marry Gwendolen and Cecily, but they will have to be cautious and make sure society is looking the other way.

Passion and Morality
Wilde’s contention that a whole world exists separate from Victorian manners and appearances is demonstrated in the girlish musings of Cecily. When she hears that Jack’s “wicked” brother Ernest is around, she is intensely desirous of meeting him. She says to Algernon, “I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time.” The thought of meeting someone who lives outside the bounds of prudery and rules is exciting to naïve Cecily. Even using the name Ernest for his secret life is ironic because Algernon is not being dutiful — earnest — in living a secret life.

Various characters in the play allude to passion, sex and moral looseness. Chasuble and Prism’s flirting and coded conversations about things sexual, Algernon stuffing his face to satisfy his hungers, the diaries (which are the acceptable venues for passion), and Miss Prism’s three-volume novel are all examples of an inner life covered up by suffocating rules. Even Algernon’s aesthetic life of posing as the dandy, dressing with studied care, neglecting his bills, being unemployed, and pursuing pleasure instead of duty is an example of Victorians valuing trivialities. Once Algernon marries he will have suffocating rules and appearances to keep up. Wilde’s characters allude to another life beneath the surface of Victorian correctness. Much of the humor in this play draws a fine line between the outer life of appearances and the inner life of rebellion against the social code that says life must be lived earnestly.

Courtship and Marriage
Oscar Wilde felt these Victorian values were perpetuated through courtship and marriage, both of which had their own rules and rituals. Marriage was a careful selection process. When Algernon explains that he plans to become engaged to Jack’s ward, Cecily, Lady Bracknell decides, “I think some preliminary enquiry on my part would not be out of place.” When Lady Bracknell pummels Jack with questions about parents, politics, fortune, addresses, expectations, family solicitors, and legal encumbrances, his answers must be proper and appropriate for a legal union between the two families to be approved. Fortune is especially important, and when Jack and Cecily’s fortunes are both appropriate, the next problem is family background. Because Jack does not know his parents, Lady Bracknell suggests he find a parent — any with the right lineage will do — and find one quickly. Appearance, once again, is everything. Duty (not joy, love or passion) is important, further substantiating Algy’s contention that marriage is a loveless duty: “A man who marries without knowing Bunbury [an excuse for pleasure] has a very tedious time of it.” Marriage is presented as a legal contract between consenting families of similar fortunes; background, love, and happiness have little to do with it.

The strict Victorian class system, in which members of the same class marry each other, perpetuates the gulf between the upper, middle and lower classes. Snobbish, aristocratic attitudes further preserve the distance between these groups. Jack explains to Lady Bracknell that he has no politics. He considers himself a Liberal Unionist. Lady Bracknell finds his answer satisfactory because it means that he is a Tory, or a conservative. Jack’s home in London is on the “unfashionable side” of Belgrave Square, so “that could easily be altered.” When Jack inquires whether she means the “unfashionable” or the side of the street, Lady Bracknell explains, “Both, if necessary.” The French Revolution is held up as an example of what happens when the lower class is taught to question its betters. Education is not for learning to think; it is for mindlessly following convention. Lady Bracknell approves of ignorance. In fact, she explains, “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.” Thinking causes discontent, and discontent leads to social revolution. That simply will not do.

Class Conflict
One might think aristocrats would see the error of their ways and try to be more virtuous in a moral sense. However, they see their attitudes as the virtuous high ground and believe that other classes should conform to aristocratic attitudes and see the error of their own ways. When Miss Prism seems to chide the lower classes for producing so many children for Chasuble to christen, she appears to see it as a question of thrift. “I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject [of christenings]. But they don’t seem to know what thrift is.” Chasuble speaks humorously of the penchant of the aristocracy to dabble in good causes that do not disrupt their own lives too much. He mentions a sermon he gave for the Society for the Prevention of Discontent Among the Upper Orders. To the Victorians, reform means keeping the current social and economic system in place by perpetuating upper-class virtues and economy.

Every page, every line of dialogue, every character, each symbol, and every stage direction in The Importance of Being Earnest is bent on supporting Wilde’s contention that social change happens as a matter of thoughtfulness. Art can bring about such thoughtfulness. If the eccentric or unusual is to be replaced with correct behavior and thought, human sympathy and compassion suffer. If strict moral values leave no room for question, a society loses much of what is known as humanity.

Cliff’s Notes

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