I Wandered Lonely as Thorpe Cloud

So, on Saturday I was half-way up this hill in Dovedale, which is called Thorpe Cloud

thorpecloud

 

when we took a break, and suddenly somebody started to talk about Wordsworth.  He’d been to a funeral where ‘Daffodils’ was recited as part of the ceremony: and then he burst out: ‘How is that different from doggerel?’  He started to recite the poem thus:

I wan-dered lone-ly as a cloud

di-dah di-dah di-dah di-dah’

I began to protest: I have always thought highly of Wordsworth and I started to say what I thought were the differences between the two.

‘But it sounds just the same!’ he protested.

‘It depends how you say it,’ I said.

After that the sandwiches took over, but it set me thinking: how DO you tell the difference between good poetry and doggerel?  Let’s consider the following two extracts:

Daffodils

by Wm Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

that floats on high o’er dale and hill

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.

… and this, by Hilaire Belloc:

Mathilda

Mathilda told such dreadful lies

it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes

her aunt, who from her earliest youth

had kept a strict regard for truth

attempted to believe Mathilda

– the effort very nearly killed her,

and would have done so, had not she

discovered this infirmity.

Well?  What are the differences?  Both poems are in iambic quadrameter ie four metrical feet, each of which has the stress on the second syllable, so superficially they sound the same.  I think the differences are partly in intention – Wordsworth’s intention was serious whereas Belloc’s was comic – and that has an effect on how you read the poems.  I totally disagree that you would read ‘Daffodils’ in a di-da-di-dah way – I think the rhythm is slower and more contemplative and the words are slow, not punchy: lonely, cloud, golden: it’s very hard to say these words quickly and sharply, unlike killed, lies, gasp, eyes which are the staples of Belloc’s poem.

What do you think?

Answers on a postcard please.  Preferably from the Lake District – or failing that, Dovedale…

Kirk out

3 thoughts on “I Wandered Lonely as Thorpe Cloud

  1. Well, Belloc’s is all couplets, making it doggerelish. Wordsworth rhymes hill with daffodils, an imperfect rhyme which doggerel would never stoop to. So doggerel needs perfect rhymes, better if clever, and humour helps. So limericks seem to be destined to be doggerel. There seems to be a hint of snobbishness here because ‘good doggerel’ seems to be a contradiction in terms. Hope you liked the card.

    Spock out

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s