Five ‘Isolation’ Pastiches: #1

bearded man reading a book in bed

Photo by cottonbro on

Each day this week I will publish a short 4-line verse, each one commencing with a well-known line, sometimes adapted to suit the context, from a renowned published poem.  The general theme is that of Isolation.


Wordsworth’s Lucy:  Pastiche #1

( ‘She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways’: by William Wordsworth )


I dwell along untrodden ways

Beside the River Thames.

I teach myself to live alone,

And write poetic gems.




WORDSWORTH: ‘A Slumber did my Spirit Seal’

(Poem No.40 of my favourite short poems)

I posted Wordsworth’s poem   ‘She dwelt among the untrodden ways’ on the 1st August 2016.   Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems are laden with wistfulness and melancholy, but the simplicity and delicacy of their language, and the directness and aptness of their rhyme, have always touched me with their beauty and tenderness.  Below I print another of these short poems from the ‘Lucy’ series, usually known by their first line …  ‘A Slumber did my Spirit Seal’


Burne-Jones … ‘Sleeping Beauty’

A Slumber did my Spirit Seal

A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years. 

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees. 

By:  William Wordsworth




Hawsker Church


I fell for a ghost,
A spectre, a wraith,
I grappled to win her
In a wrestle with faith.

A wondrous creature,
A vision in white.
I knew I should leave her,
Beware of her bite.

Her present and past
I struggled to find;
Whatever her story –
I was out of my mind.

I knew nothing of her,
Nor she of me;
So however I tried
It just wasn’t to be.

She sighed with delight
As I caught her sweet breath,
And I knew with a shudder
She’d never trounce death.

For death had imbibed her,
Had taken her in
To its cold winter grasp,
And I never could win.

But her passion was endless.
It left me in dread
Of an endless uncoupling –
A  gift to the dead.

So I severed my heart strings
– Futile to resist.
Yes, my dream was a mirage
… What is love but a mist?


I n an earlier blog of mine (No.6. published on 1st August, 2016), I mentioned my love of William Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems. In another of his poems in similar tender vein, which has also long been a favourite of mine, he begins with the line, which has become the poem’s title, ‘She was a phantom of delight’.  The poem was written about his first meeting with, Mary Hutchinson, a pupil at the same school as William, who eventually became his wife.

The first stanza depicts the woman not as a creature of flesh and blood but as a phantom or an insubstantial being. He calls her an “apparition” that can “haunt, startle and waylay”.

For no particular reason that I am aware of, this set in motion a train of thought suggesting a liaison with a more genuine ‘phantom’, a wraith. The verses above were the result – in no way comparable with the subtleties and delights of Wordsworth’s poem.

The lead-in photograph at the top was taken by me on a foggy day at the ancient cliff-top church and churchyard of Hawser, near Whitby, on the North Yorkshire coast.  Some adaptations have been made to the photograph.

Wordsworth’s Lucy


From time to time, I will reproduce one of my favourite poems.  Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems are laden with wistfulness and melancholy, but the simplicity and delicacy of their language, and the directness and aptness of their rhyme, have always touched me with their beauty and tenderness.  The simply expressed emotion in all five of the poems is poignant. I include just one of them below, the last two lines of which are, for me, among the most plaintive in the whole of English Literature . . .


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”, of which the above is the second, were composed between 1798 and 1801,  by  the English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, in his ‘Lyrical Ballads’.   In these poems, Wordsworth tried to write simple English verse on the themes of love, longing, beauty, nature and death.  The five poems, generally known by their opening lines, are . . .

  • 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
  • A slumber did my spirit seal

One source of these poems can be found at:

N.B.  Wordsworth’s poem, “Lucy Gray”, was written at about the same time, but is not normally thought of as one of his ‘Lucy’ poems because the traditional “Lucy” poems are not at all specific about the age of Lucy and her actual relationship with the narrator, whereas ‘Lucy Gray’ is a narrative re-telling of an actual event related to him by his sister, Dorothy.