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!
Of the Poem (Brief Commentary & Parameters)
She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways was written by Wordsworth in Germany in 1798 and published in London in 1800. The poem is dedicated to a figure hitherto unknown: Lucy.
It is said by some that Lucy is a real person, by others that she’s fictitious, and still by others that she’s a composite, hybrid character. Thomas DeQuincey, a friend of Wordsworth, wrote that the poet "always preserved a mysterious silence on the subject of that Lucy.”
What is known about Lucy is that she meant a great deal to Wordsworth, and that, according to the group of poems, she died young.
Of the Lucy poems there’s a total of five (including this one) - the others are:
- Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower
- A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
- Strange Fits of Passion have I Known
- I Travelled among Unknown Men
Stanza: The poem consists of three quatrains structured very much so in the form of a ballad.
Meter: The first and third line of each stanza revolve* around a tetrameter (i.e. 8 syllables per line), and the second and fourth are trimeters (i.e. 6 syllables per line).
Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme, per stanza, is abab (but notice that an oblique rhyme is used in lines 5 and 7, i.e. stone and one).
And so there it is, another exceedingly gorgeous work by another admirable poet.
Before I leave off, just a side note ...
One of my New Years resolutions was that I'd steep myself into any and everything that even remotely was connected with poetry- bad idea: there's just too much that's connected to it (or should I say, poetry is connected to everything).
Well, one of the first things on my list was to undergo a rigorous, systematic study of the history of poetry, her movements, and the poets of those movements. When I reached the Romantic period (within which Wordsworth was) I felt blessed to know it.
If any person was just beginning to learn about poetry and asked my advice on where to start, I promise you my resolute answer would be the Romantic period.
Be blessed all, and feel the Muse ...
*I say ‘revolves around’ a tetrameter because lines I and 5 both contain an extra syllable. We could, if we wanted to force a tetrameter, read line one like this: She dwelt among th’ untrodden ways … but this wouldn’t account for line 5’s extra syllable.