The British poet William Wordsworth also used a literary device known as inversion, which involves placing an adjective after a noun or placing a verb before the subject to give the words a more poetic feel. An example, “saw I at a glance,” appears in the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Normally you would say, “I saw at a glance.”
Can you find at least three more examples of inversion in this poem?

take notes icon For the next activity, read the poem, and then using your notes follow these steps: (1) write three examples of inversion, (2) rewrite the examples in a more traditional word order, and (3) write how this poem makes you feel. When you are finished writing your responses, check our understanding to see some possible responses.
A photograph of a daffodil covered field in Cornwall, England. The field is near the sea with coastal hills in the background.

Source: Cornwall Daffodils, Mark Robinson, Wikimedia

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

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
Out-did 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.

—William Wordsworth, 1804

Check Your Understanding

Sample Response:

  1. Examples of inversion:
    • What wealth the show to me had brought (What wealth the show had brought to me)
    • For oft, when on my couch I lie (For oft, when I lie on my couch)
    • And then my heart with pleasure fills (And then my heart fills with pleasure)
  2. The inversion draws the reader’s attention to key ideas in the poem. It seems as though the three inverted lines at the end of the poem show the realization the speaker made and cause me to reflect, too. I’ve not always appreciated nature’s beauty at the moment just as the speaker didn’t appreciate the beautiful field of daffodils.
  3. Sometimes I have been too busy to stop and appreciate what's around me, but later when I think back and remember, I am more appreciative.