Monday, April 18, 2011

The Wondrous Waltz of the Daffodils

William Wordsworth's classic verse, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, that ode to spring's temporal dance, evokes the seasonal dance of wind-struck daffodils, "Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Wandering and dancing in the breeze." The poet's gaze - espying clouds of yellow, "Waving their heads in spritely dance" - how can we help but be joyful in their company: "And I, beside them, dance in glee", even as the grey, icy winds of winter give way to the indomitable sunshine of spring.

Garrison Keillor recites the poem on April 15, 2011 in his daily Writer's Almanac (see podcast below). The date for me is meaningful: my father, David Stevens who, well into his 80s would visit nursing homes to read poetry he loved to "the old people", would recite this most beloved poem by heart at every reading. This year, it was as if he touched me from another dimension, channeled by Keillor: my father the accountant would have danced with glee at the conclusion of this day, April 15, that the long tax season, the grays of thousands of 1040 long forms and long days and nights under the sore artifice of office fluorescent lights, could finally give way to fresh air, suddenly lengthened days and the sunshine of spring.

Since my own childhood, when Daddy and I would walk of an early spring day, one of our favorite things to do, daffodil's have evoked the dance of freedom, light and love. So now, in this season of spring and light and hope, I think of him when I take my walk in the woods, and "when oft upon my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, I gaze upon the inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude."

My father was also a poet in his own right. My own yard offers up a meager yield of only three lonely dancers, but I cut them to grace our Passover table and take delight in gazing upon them, as I know Daddy still must. "And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the 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.