She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love.
A violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the Eye!
—Fair, as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her Grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
The Lucy Poems are a series of five poems written by William Wordsworth from 1798 to 1801, most of which were first published in his famous Lyrical Ballads. Imbued with abstract ideals of nature, beauty, love, longing and death, the poems were written during a short period when Wordsworth lived in Germany and concentrate on his longing for his friend Coleridge, as well as his irritation at his sister and travelling companion, Dorothy.
The five poems; “Strange fits of passion I have known”, “She dwelt among the untrodden ways”, “I travelled among unknown men”, “Three years she grew in sun and shower”, and “A slumber did my spirit seal”, all written in ballad form, follow the story of a beloved young girl called Lucy who dies an early death.
The collection of five ballads were titled The Lucy Poems and, while Wordsworth did not write these poems as a set, they are often published together due to their dedication to a young girl named Lucy. It continues to remain a mystery to readers and scholars as to who Lucy is, as she is not known to feature in Wordsworth real life. While there are suggestions that ‘Lucy’ was inspired by his sister Dorothy, others, including scholar and friend of Wordsworth’s, Thomas De Quincy, assumed ‘Lucy’ to be a romantic personification of his lover Mary Hutchinson.
Wordsworth’s infatuation with Lucy is clear throughout these poems. Written from the standpoint of a lover who has viewed his object of affection from afar, ‘Lucy’ is used as a medium to project many of Wordsworth’s passions as a Romantic poet. While she tragically dies in each poem, she is joyfully portrayed as an ‘object of unrequited love, ever out of reach‘, an inspirational muse, and the personification of the wildness and beauty of nature. She is presented as an ideal, almost dreamlike, more of a ‘spirit of nature than a human being‘.
While the main theme of ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’ is of Lucy’s death, it is composed as a meditation of love and loss for the narrator. Using the beautiful imagery of nature as a metaphor for a beautiful young girl, Wordsworth emphasises the tragedy of her death, creating a moving ode to you the young lady.
A beautiful pocket-sized collection featuring Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems complete with an introductory excerpt from Thomas De Quincey’s collected writings: “Who was Lucy?”.