The Lucy Poems - She dwelt among the untrodden ways

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!

Footnotes

  1. The muse is a personal figure for the speaker. “Few could know” Lucy’s presence or demise because she exists solely in the poet’s mind. Lucy dies at the end of each poem because, as an object of imagination, she cannot exist in reality. This tension between the poetic imagination and reality is a key theme.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The poet compares Lucy to a star, and not just any star. He states that she is as beautiful as a solitary star in the sky. He is telling the reader that Lucy is uncommonly beautiful. The image of the single star also represents Lucy’s role as a muse. Just as sailors would navigate according to the North Star, the speaker looks to Lucy for inspiration and direction.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Here Wordsworth uses figurative language to compare the poem's subject, Lucy, to a beautiful flower: a violet. The violet serves as a metaphor for Lucy’s otherworldly beauty and purity, particularly when contrasted with the “mossy stone.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. These lines depict Lucy as an abstract love object. She is defined not by her own qualities or actions but by the opinions and praise she receives from others. Thus, the love the speaker expresses for Lucy in the poem’s final line is a form of idealized love. Unrequited, idealistic longing is a central theme in these poems.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Wordsworth introduces the character of Lucy as a figure with one foot in reality and the other in fantasy. As in “Strange fits of passion have I known,” Lucy represents a fantasy for the speaker, suggested here by the “untrodden ways” in which she resides. Yet the “springs of Dove,” likely a location near Wordsworth’s own Dove cottage, gives the poem a setting in the real world. The tension between fantasy and reality is an important theme throughout the Lucy poems.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff