Three years she grew in sun and shower (The Education of Nature)

Three years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, “A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take,
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.
“Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse, and with me
The Girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.
“She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn
Or up the mountain springs;
And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm
Of mute insen sate things.
“The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend,
Nor shall she fail to see
Even in the motions of the Storm
Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form
By silent sympathy.
“The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.
“And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height,
Her virgin bosom swell,
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give
While she and I together live
Here in this happy dell.”
Thus Nature spake—the work was done—
How soon my Lucy's race was run!
She died and left to me
This heath, this calm and quiet scene,
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.


  1. Lucy’s death can be read in two different ways. It is possible that the speaker laments the departure of his muse, his source of poetic inspiration. Lucy’s death can also be seen as a confrontation with reality. The poet’s idealistic imagination—personified by Lucy—can never exist in the harshness of reality. These lines reiterate the gap between fantasy and reality, an important theme throughout the Lucy poems.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Wordsworth points to the idealistic nature of Lucy, as woman and as poetic muse. Lucy, with her “stately height” and virginity, has an unrealistic grandiosity and purity. Lucy, who inspires flights of fancy in the poet’s mind, cannot exist in the lived world. This tension between idealism and reality is a key theme in the Lucy poems.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Lucy represents the poetic imagination, that characteristic which allows one to find figures in the “floating clouds.” In other words, it is the poet’s muse who is lent the metaphors and images in the cloudy sky. In this stanza and the next, Wordsworth depicts how Lucy is touched by a number of quintessential sources of poetic inspiration: the clouds, the weeping willow, the storm, the star-filled sky at night, the river that “dances” and “murmur[s].” Lucy is that part of the human soul attuned to the poetry in the world around us. The emphasis on the features of the natural world is a hallmark of Romantic-era poetry.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Wordsworth once again plays with sense perception, evoking the reader’s breath and sense of smell with reference to the fragrant “breathing balm.” The following lines bring a hushed tone, evoking the sense of hearing. Given Lucy’s representative role as poetic muse, this stanza illustrates the vast range of experiences poetry can convey, from the vibrancy of the fawn to the mute calmness of “insensate things.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. This couplet expands on Lucy’s relationship with the natural world. From the speaker’s perspective, she is guided by the “law and impulse” of nature, but has some control over it. As poetic muse, it figures that Lucy would have the power to “kindle or restrain” the figures of the earth. The poet must shape the subject matter into verse, kindling certain elements, restraining others. The interest in the natural world as a guiding influence is a key theme in Romantic poetry.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Nature takes on the role of a character in this poem. Nearly six of the seven stanzas consist of Nature’s own words, which weave an account of Lucy’s birth and upbringing. Throughout the Lucy poems, Lucy represents a muse, a personification of the speaker’s poetic inspiration. In this poem, it becomes clear that the speaker’s muse is inseparable from the natural world. The poets of Romantic movement—Wordsworth included—almost universally viewed the natural world as a primary source of poetic inspiration.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor