William Wordsworth's `The Daffodils' compared to Gillian Clarke's 'Miracle on St David's Day'

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GCSE English Poetry Assignment                Simon Hamilton11N


In this essay I will attempt to compare two very contrasting poems, William Wordsworth’s `The Daffodils' which was written in pre 1900s and Gillian Clarke’s ‘Miracle on St David's Day’, written in the 20th century. Strangely enough Gillian Clarke’s ‘Miracle on St David's day’ was actually inspired by ‘The Daffodils’.  In 1804 William Wordsworth wrote ‘a masterpiece’, two years after his experience with the daffodils, while the poem “Miracle on St. David’s Day” was written by Gillian Clarke around 1980, one hundred and seventy-six years after The Daffodils was.  

 Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, and raised around the mountains of Cumberland around the River Derwent.  It was here that he would have been in ‘pure communication’ with nature and this was probably the inspiration for most of his poems.  

        Gillian Clarke was born in Wales in 1937.  Her parents spoke only Welsh but she learned to speak English as well as Welsh and currently lives in Tallgarreg, Wales, where she breeds sheep with her architect husband, daughter and two sons.

        The poems have many differences and similarities.  I plan to write about some of them in this essay.  The poems are set in two different places.  ‘The Daffodils’ was written when Wordsworth was out walking on his own, in Gowbarrow Park, by the River Ullswater – which was obviously outside.  ‘Miracle on St. David’s Day was written in a mental institution – an indoor setting.  This has an effect on the way each poem is written.  Both are written about the human mind, memory and imagination, and I think that writing about these subjects would have been quite hard to do.  Both poems capture the central characters - the poet and the elected mute - trapped in their own minds.  In ‘The Daffodils’ Wordsworth is ‘wandering like a cloud’, but the mental patients are described as ‘not seeing, not feeling’ in Clarke’s poem; conveying that they are trapped in their own bodies and are trying to get out.  

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The insanity of all of these inmates in Clarke’s is not dangerous, except for the beautiful chestnut haired boy who is schizophrenic, ‘on a good day’ and this shows the reader that looks aren’t always everything. They are trapped in their world of absences with no escape.  In this poem, it is the rhythms of poetry that cures the dumb man. However, 'The Daffodils' describes the power of the actual flower to cure Wordsworth's '…vacant or pensive mood…' The significance of the actual flower differs in the two poems. Wordsworth bases his whole poem on them, whereas Clarke bases her ...

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