Britlish

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Pronunciation | Poetry | IPA Symbols | Literature

Pronunciation

No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.

Poetry

Because of their structure, poems are a great way of learning about the rhythm of the English language. In these Activities you will be able to listen to poetry, read it, and then improve your knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, thus improving your pronunciation. The Activities also include information about the poets and some background to the writing of the poem. Finally, you will have the chance to test how much you have learned about the vocabulary and other aspects of the poems through some interactive exercises.

IPA Symbols

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation that was devised in the 19th century as a standardised way of representing the sounds of speech in written form. The British English IPA chart consists of 44 symbols representing the pure vowels (monophthongs), the gliding vowels (diphthongs), and the consonant sounds of spoken British English. The Britlish Library contains a wealth of Activities to help you to learn, remember, and use the British English IPA symbols efficiently whether you are a student or a teacher.

Literature

Some students like to sit back and listen to some interesting English. It doesn't get much more interesting than some of the old classics from English literature. These Activities have been created to help you get the best from the vocabulary found in some of the old classics. As you listen and read your way through these Activities, you will also broaden your understanding of English culture.

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The lyric poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, also commonly known as Daffodils, is Wordsworth’s most famous poem. I have designed this lesson as a way of showing you the rhythm of English. Because of their structure, poems like this one are a very useful way of demonstrating the typical rhythm of the English language. In this lesson you will first listen to the poem, then read it, and then explore the phonetic transcription. It also includes a biography of William Wordsworth, the poet, as well as the background to the writing of the poem. Finally, you will have the chance to test how much you have learned about stress patterns and rhymes in some interactive exercises.

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.

Now you can read the phonetic transcription of the poem while you listen to me reading it. This will help you to learn the phonetic alphabet. You can also note the positions of the weak syllables and the syllable boundaries within words. The strong stresses in words of more than one syllable are marked with little apostrophe-like marks before the syllable. / ˈ / The syllable boundaries within words are marked with a dot.  / . / Syllabic consonants, where consonants such as / l / act as the peak of a syllable, have a little mark under the symbol. / l̩ /

William Wordsworth, an English poet, was born on the 7th of April 1770 and died of pleurisy on the 23rd of April 1850. He was born in Cockermouth in Cumberland, the second of five children. His father, John Wordsworth, was the legal representative of the 1st Earl of Lonsdale, and the upper-class Wordsworth family lived in a large mansion in the small town of Cockermouth. His mother died in 1778. William’s first published work was a sonnet in The European Magazine in 1787. This was the same year he began attending St John’s College, Cambridge, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1791. In November of the same year, Wordsworth visited Revolutionary France and was fascinated with the Republican movement there. He was also fascinated by a Frenchwoman, Annette Vallon, who gave him a daughter, Caroline, in 1792. Wordsworth returned to Britain the following year without Annette. He wouldn’t see her again until 1802, and then only to tell her that he was going to marry someone else. He did, however, support his daughter, Caroline, financially throughout her childhood. Wordsworth was able to pursue a career as a poet thanks to a substantial legacy of nine hundred pounds that he received in 1795. It was in that year that he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the two poets became great friends. The two of them became major poets of the English Romantic period. They published their first significant work in the English Romantic movement, Lyrical Ballads, in 1798. Wordsworth was able to marry Mary Hutchinson in 1802 when he received some four thousand pounds from the Earl of Lonsdale which was owed to his late father. A year later, Mary gave birth to the first of their five children, only two of whom outlived their parents. By 1810, Wordsworth and Coleridge’s friendship had soured due to Coleridge’s addiction to opium. In 1813, Wordsworth was appointed Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland and his four hundred pounds a year salary ensured his financial security. That year, he and his family moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside, in the Lake District, and there he spent the rest of his life. The poem was inspired by the sight of daffodils on Glencoyne Bay. Wordsworth walked there, on the shores of Ullswater lake, with his sister, Dorothy, on the 15th of April 1802. Dorothy describes the walk in her journal. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up – But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed and reeled and danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway – We rested again & again. The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea. — Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journal Thursday, 15 April 1802 According to Wordsworth, he wrote the poem in 1804, and his wife, Mary, provided what he thought were the two best lines in the poem; They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude

 

The collection, Poems in two Volumes, was not well-received by fellow poets and critics such as Lord Byron when it was published in 1807. The public, however, took a decidedly different position and the work quickly gained in popularity and renown, as Wordsworth himself did. Recent polls have placed the poem as the fifth most popular in English. Wordsworth revised the poem in 1815. Golden daffodils was originally dancing daffodils. Beside the lake was originally along the lake. Fluttering and dancing in the breeze was originally ten thousand dancing in the breeze. Jocund company was originally laughing company. He also added a new stanza between the first and second, but left the last stanza untouched. The poem is written in a rhyming pattern of a b a b c c. This means that the word at the end of the first line rhymes with the word at the end of the third, the second with the fourth, and the fifth with the sixth. cloud – crowd | hills – daffodils | trees – breeze | shine – line | way – bay | glance – dance | they – gay | glee – company | thought – brought | lie – eye | mood – solitude | fills – daffodils. English is a stress-timed language. This means that the time between strong stresses is always about the same. We get the distinctive, sing-song rhythm of English by using strong and weak stresses. Other stress-timed languages are Thai, German, Russian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Faroese, Dutch, Portuguese and Persian. Arabic is also a stress-timed language, but it does not reduce vowels to weak forms.The stress pattern of the poem is iambic tetrameter. This means that there are four feet in the line. A foot is made up of a weak stress followed by a strong stress. To demonstrate this more clearly, I will exaggerate the stress pattern here. Notice that in the last line, Wordsworth has changed the stress pattern to mimic the random, chaotic dance of the wind-blown daffodils. He does the same in the next stanza, too, to achieve a similar effect. In the last two stanzas, Wordsworth stays with the same rhythm all the way through: oOoOoOoO Of course, we would not normally read a poem with such exaggerated stress, but it will help you to hear the stress pattern. Now go back to the normal reading of the poem and see if you can still hear the stress pattern.

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