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Meter in The Lucy Poems

Meter Examples in The Lucy Poems:

Strange fits of passion have I known

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"My horse moved on; hoof after hoof He raised, and never stopped:..."   (Strange fits of passion have I known)

Wordsworth alters the meter in this line. After “My horse moved on,” the usual series of iambs—an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable—is broken. The phrase “hoof after hoof” begins with a trochee, a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. On one level, this sudden metrical jolt conveys the horse’s sudden movement away from the cottage. On a deeper level, this marks the narrative’s transition: the speaker will not see Lucy.

"With quickening pace my horse drew nigh Those paths so dear to me...."   (Strange fits of passion have I known)

The horse is a classic literary symbol for the animalistic side of human nature. The rider on horseback then becomes a metaphor for the conscious mind observing the body’s deeper impulses and longings. The speaker’s unrequited longing for Lucy is one of the central themes of the series.

"Strange fits of passion have I known, And I will dare to tell,..."   (Strange fits of passion have I known)

Wordsworth structures “Strange fits of passion have I known” as a ballad, a song-like poetic form with an ABAB rhyme scheme. The meter alternates between tetrameter and trimeter, so each four-beat line is followed by a three-beat line. This gives the poem a propulsive, musical feeling. The opening couplet establishes a confessional tone. The speaker "will dare to tell" a personal story. This rhetorical move raises the narrative stakes at the outset.

"“She shall be sportive as the fawn That wild with glee across the lawn Or up the mountain springs;..."   (Three years she grew in sun and shower (The Education of Nature))

Throughout the poem, Wordsworth evokes a number of senses in the description of Lucy. The comparison to a fawn here is kinetic, bringing to mind a flurry of activity. The poem’s swift meter is particularly useful in evoking the bounding of a young deer.

"Three years she grew in sun and shower, Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower On earth was never sown;..."   (Three years she grew in sun and shower (The Education of Nature))

Here, Wordsworth strays from the standard balladic structure of the other poems in the Lucy sequence. In this poem each stanza takes on an AABCCB rhyme scheme. Each four-beat couplet is followed by a three-beat–B-rhyme line. This overall effect is songlike, but not as propulsive as a typical ballad. The frequent three-beat lines allow for moments of pause that contribute to a contemplative tone.

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