On April 15, 1802, the poet William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, took a walk around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District of England. During their walk, they came upon what Dorothy later described in her journal as a "long belt" of daffodils by the shore, " about the breadth of a country turnpike road." She continued her description:
I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing.
Inspired by this experience, Wordsworth wrote perhaps his most famous poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," in 1804. It's my favorite poem. I first discovered it with my mother in a poetry anthology she had purchased. I was in my early teens at the time and struggling to create my own separate identity while searching for qualities in my mother that I could admire and emulate. I remember my pleasure in reading Wordsworth's poem with her. The poem's joyous imagery is forever linked for me with a moment when my mother and I were in complete accord.
Here is the poem:
"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"
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.
Just as the poet discovers the bliss of remembered pleasure, each time I re-read his poem, I experience the remembered happiness of reading it for the first time with my mother.