I am sequestered in my son’s home on Long Island with Mary and our 100-pound mutt Mitzi. My son is sequestered in Los Angeles. Whenever the sun shines, we take long walks with Mitzi, and one of the happiest sights is the clumps of daffodils that have popped up. They are the symbol of spring, a token of the earth renewing itself as it does every year, a flower that celebrates the turning of the seasons.

Garrison Keillor thought about this famous poem by William Wordsworth, which I first read many years ago in high school.

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.

“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” by William Wordsworth. Public domain. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1802 that William Wordsworth (books by this author) was walking home with his sister, Dorothy, and saw a patch of daffodils that became the inspiration for one of his most famous poems.

They were returning from a visit to their friends Thomas and Catherine Clarkson, who lived on the shore of Ullswater, the second largest lake in England’s lake district, a beautiful deep lake, nine miles long, surrounded by mountains.

Dorothy wrote in her journal: “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 and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and 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 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 glancing ever changing.”

William was impressed by the daffodils too, but William didn’t write anything about them for at least two years, maybe more. No one is sure when he wrote the poem “I wander’d lonely as a cloud,” but it was published in 1807. Not only did Wordsworth probably reference Dorothy’s journal for inspiration, but his wife Mary came up with two lines: “They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude.” William said they were the best lines in the poem.