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:   http://www.poetry-archive.com/w/lucy.html

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.