Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interpretation of Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems

“Lucy Poems” consists of five poems Wordsworth wrote when his mind was at the height of Romantic fancy and idealism. The obvious philosophical inspiration behind this was Rousseau’s Emile... The immediate model for Lucy has been much debated: some argue strongly, like Geoffrey Hartman, in favour of the poet’s sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, some find an image of Annette Vallon and some dismiss all of these in favour of the argument that Lucy is nothing but an ideal construct of the poet’s fancy. Whatever the case may be, the simplicity and beauty of the poems continue to attract the readers to an ideal Romantic world, where a few principles seek to make it different from the real one. The poems appeared in the 1800 edition of the Lyrical Ballads, which was itself a monumental collection of Romantic experiment.

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

The Text

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy tone
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!

This poem tells the tale of Lucy’s short journey of life in this world—her growth, perfection and untimely death. The poet informs us that Lucy lived a delicate and solitary life in the world of Nature unpolluted by human intrusion. She lived beside the springs of Dove and she was unknown to human beings who could otherwise praise the greatness of her mind. In her isolation she was also quite stranger to human love.

This kind of situation is very hard to explain and that is why Wordsworth resorts to rhetorical deice: he compares the fragility and the beauty of her existence to that of a violent which blooms by a mossy stone, where it remains half-hidden from others. He compares her unusual beauty to that of Venus, which is seen first in the evening sky shining with exceptional beauty in the midst of approaching darkness of night.

In the final stanza Wordsworth informs the reader of Lucy’s secluded way of life and her sudden death. Just as she lived unknown, she also died unknown. No person other than the poet could know that Lucy became one with Nature. Finally the poet suddenly becomes conscious of the immediate reality that she is no more alive in this world and is sleeping forever in her grave. He feels acute pain in his heart and abruptly ends the poet with equivocal words. Now he can feel the difference of his situation of utter grief that has been created by the loss from the one of divine bliss when she was alive.

[to be continued...]