Actually, my friends and I didn’t wander. We made plans.
“When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils.” Well, the “host” was not all at once. The first few acres leading into the gardens featured scattered beds of the stars of the show, preparing us for the really big show later.
“Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” At Gibbs Gardens, those daffodils were beside many lakes and flowing streams, beneath the trees, on the hillsides, amidst the statuaries and metal art and rock formations and waterfalls, everywhere, a breathtaking blend of nature and art.
“Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way, they stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay.”
Certainly there seemed to be no end to them, literally as numerous as the stars overhead. No bay of water in sight, but a lagoon of luscious green grass, the perfect backdrop for these delicate buttercups.
“Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance.” Except one cannot simply glance. Each blink of the eye brings a thousand other blooms into view.
“The waves beside them danced, but they outdid the sparkling waves in glee.”
A pleasant, warm breeze gave just enough movement to cause each blossom to nod and wave as we passed by. Much of the daffodil fields are easier to see from the trams that traverse the grounds throughout the day. Who among us could walk over the 220 acres?
“A poet could not but be gay in such a jocund company!” In Wordsworth’s day, the word gay meant alive, exuberant, bright, lively. He knew that a poet’s inspiration came from such experiences as this explosion of beauty in nature.
And he realized, in the next line, “I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought,” that he probably did not truly appreciate all that he saw at the time, and only later would reap the rewards. And the wealth? Perhaps a wealth of memories, and in his case, a poem that would live through decades and centuries of new crops, new observers, new gardeners.
He wraps it up by concluding, “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.”
He had the good fortune to enjoy the luxury of a “vacant or pensive mood,” unfettered by phones, TVs, or computerized gadgets. He treasured solitude, and rightly knew it to be blissful. He could turn on those dancing daffodils at a moment’s notice.
I really do not know when I memorized this exquisite poem. I must have refreshed my memory along the way, but I cannot remember a time when I could not recite those stanzas.
I have remarked throughout the years that the poem’s rhyme and rhythm, its cadence and the absolute, precise power of its descriptive words and phrases make it the easiest poem to commit to memory. You can pat your feet to the rhythm. The perfection of the poem is surpassed only by the perfection of the flower it describes.
I can only hope that someone will include me in plans for another trip to Gibbs Gardens when the roses are in bloom, or the azaleas, or any of a thousand other garden jewels.
I’m already thinking ahead, anticipating a different scenario, and perhaps even different sounds.
Wordsworth didn’t mention the sounds that accompanied the sights he described, and there may have been no sounds.
At Gibbs, the frogs are continuously tuning up their throaty instruments, battling to be heard above each other. And the songbirds are doing the same, flitting through tree branches (the holly trees are thick with their prickly leaves and red berries; others are bare now, but threatening to leaf out any day), no doubt practicing their mating calls and noting the best spots for nesting.
There’s an occasional rippling in the streams, causing visitors to angle for a fish sighting.
Another poet, Keats, said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” He and Wordsworth were contemporaries. It makes one wonder if an ancestor of Jim Gibbs lived near either of them.
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.