A Short Analysis of Wordsworth’s ‘She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways’

A commentary on one of Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems

‘She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways’ is one of William Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ poems, which he first published in the 1800 reprint of his landmark volume Lyrical Ballads (co-authored with Samuel Taylor Coleridge). In three quatrains, Wordsworth summarises the life, beauty, and death of Lucy, a ‘Maid’ who lived and died among Wordsworth’s beloved Lake District. Before we offer a few words of analysis of this poem, here’s a reminder of it.

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!

For the critic Geoffrey Durrant, the three stanzas of ‘She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways’ represent ‘Lucy’s growth, perfection, and death’.

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