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

Outdid 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.

WORDSWORTH, The Daffodils

The more we consider the nature of

the more adequate and precise does Milton's stipulation appear. It must, we remember, be simple, sensuous, and passionate, conditions which Coleridge elaborates, not unhelpfully, thus — single in con



ception, abounding in sensible images, and informing them all with the spirit of the mind. To take these essential qualities and refer them to the poem that we are considering: ‘simple,' it seems to me, implies not only singleness of conception, but also a corresponding singleness of expression; it denotes, in fact, the achievement of the artistic form that conveys complete perception from one mind to another, and, as it is a condition that relates to the finished poem with all its contributory parts, it may best, I think, be considered last instead of first, as Milton puts it. First, then, we are told that it must be sensuous, or abounding in sensible images. The virtue of an image to the poet's reader is that it forces his mind in the most direct manner to an unembarrassed act of creation, to a motion having something of the lucid vitality that is the poet's own. It is always possible for us to see a thing with the physical eye dully, without any consequent act of sharp mental realization. But when a poet sees a thing with sufficient intensity to translate it from its own natural expression to a mental image recorded in words, he not only proves his own realization of the object, but makes it imperative that we, in reading his words, shall perform an act of realization ourselves or get from him nothing but empty sound. So communicative of life is the poet's created image of a natural object, that many minds, while they are still relatively insensitive to the natural object in itself, respond to the poet's realization of it with a realization of their own. This mental state of realization, it must be noted in passing, is altogether more vivid than that of mere appreciation. Few people would be likely to see a blowing bed of daffodils at a lakeside without some heightening of emotion; but even fewer, perhaps, would see it with that quickening of formal vision which it is the highest of our hopes to foster, since it is the condition of understanding, of justice. When, however, we see nothing with the physical eye, but read of

‘A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze, we either perform a complete act of mental realization or we experience nothing at all. The image that is before us cannot be perceived with the blurred appreciation through which we may so easily see the natural object; if it exists for us at all it exists lucidly, completely. Although the philosophers may tell us that the natural object cannot exist apart from the beholding mind, it is clear that it may be beholden by a succession of minds without inducing any vivid realizing movement in one of them; but those lines of the poet cannot operate in this way, since either they convey nothing, or the mind in perceiving the image that is created in them is really perceiving an image

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that it has itself created. There is another example of this direct imaging in Wordsworth's poem:

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.' But the image in poetry sometimes fulfils a more complex function than this. The stimulus of mind such as is received from the creation of a simple image, as those just mentioned, becomes yet greater and subtler when the process is the dual one of perceiving the image of one natural object through the creation of that of another. When the mind performs this act of co-relating the unrelated 1 it is being educated for its most fruitful activity, and it is the poet who most habitually helps us towards this liberation. The poet presents to us two separate simple images, ‘I wandered lonely,' and 'a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills.' Each has an independent being, and before we can proceed to understanding of his thought, we have to re-create each of them separately in our own mind. But his concern at the moment is with the fact of his loneliness; and to express this with the greatest possible force, he states it first in one simple image, then creates another and wholly unrelated image, carries over our attention from the governing idea of loneliness in the first image to this particular characteristic of the second, and applies it back again to the original conception upon which it operates with enormously increased intensity. Thus, again, in

' I owe this admirable phrase to my friend, Mr. H. P. Morrison. Whether he invented it or discovered it in the depths of his French learning, I do not know, but it is too good not to steal as readily as if it were the commonplace of criticism that it deserves to be.

“The waves beside them danced; but they

Outdid the sparkling waves in glee... and, very splendidly, in

‘Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay....' This, then, is what we mean when we say that a poem should be sensuous or abounding with sensible images, and we see the value that this quality has in bracing our minds. We may now examine what is meant by the claim that a poem should, further, be passionate, or, as Coleridge says, informed throughout with the spirit of the mind. 1

By passionate, it must be remembered, we mean something more than emotional intensity. Coleridge reminds us that the word, as Milton uses it, implies an intellectual quality, a power, beyond the translation of the vivid perception into an image, of giving a whole poetic conception intel

1 I do not think that it necessarily follows that because these demands that Milton makes must be met before a poem can be acclaimed as satisfying us in all respects, a poem that disregards one or another of them must be wholly a failure.


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