William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, were so close that not only did they live together for the majority of their lives, but also they each considered the other to be his or her closest confidante and inspiration. Like Wordsworth and his other close associate, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the relationship between William and Dorothy can be seen in each of their literary works. This is no more evident than in William's "I wandered lonely as a cloud" and Dorothy's April 15, 1802 published journal entry. Both of these works describe a field of daffodils, one in poetry, one in prose.
The similarities between the two depictions of Dorothy's experience are not difficult to see. For instance, the subject matter, the basic course of events, and some word choices in the two renderings are identical. However, when one looks closer at these two works, the smaller, less obvious, similarities become noticeable. For example, both Dorothy and William refer to the daffodils as dancing in the wind, William's daffodils "dancing in the breeze," while Dorothy's "danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them." (Norton, 186, 293-294) Also, both describe the heads of the daffodils, instead of say, the tops, or buds. The difference in this is, however, that Dorothy Wordsworth has her daffodils "rest [ing] their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness" (Norton, 293) while William Wordsworth, in a quite different vein, has his daffodils "Tossing their heads in a sprightly dance," which is also another reference to the dancing of the daffodils. (Norton, 186)
As for which rendition of this minor event I prefer, I must say that I find Dorothy Wordsworth's description much better. She seems to speak more to me; her story has more truth in it than I feel is in William's. I suppose that, beyond this experience belonging to Dorothy, poetry is more confusing from the outset to anyone because one has to look at other factors such as word choice, placement, metaphors, etc., while Dorothy's more traditional prose style is more like a conversation with a real person.
The things that I like about Dorothy Wordsworth's piece as opposed to William's are her ability to make the experience seem more soothing and tranquil than William is in his poem. In "I wandered lonely as a cloud," the mood seems more happy, excited, and joyous than Dorothy's journal entry. He repeats the word dance, uses words like "fluttering," "glee," "gay," and tells his readers how when he gets into a "pensive mood" he need only think of that field of daffodils to make him happy and exuberant again. What I like about Dorothy's rendition is her ability to mold the words into a flowing wave, like when she says, "about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones. . ." (Norton, 293) It strikes me that she is trying to set a mood. Her mood is not exhilaration or excitement but rather complacency, or a thoughtful pondering. The way that she leaves the daffodils on page 294 again proves this: "There was here and there a little knot a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway." (Norton, 294) After seeing the way that she leaves these innocent, beautiful flowers from which she received some pleasure, it is obvious that Dorothy wrote for herself, and not an audience, like her brother William.