“She dwelt among the untrodden ways” is a stirring meditation on both William Wordsworth’s feelings of loneliness and loss as well as his Romantic notion of unrequited, idealized love. It’s a stirring ode to the beauty and dignity of an idealized woman; one who lived unnoticed by all except the poet himself and died young.
She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, by William Wordsworth
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:/
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!
William Wordsworth’s “Lucy” series was written in 1798, when he was 28 years old. They include five poems in total:
- “Strange fits of passion I have known”
- “She dwelt among the untrodden ways”
- “I travelled among unknown men”
- “Three years she grew in sun and shower”
- “A slumber did my spirit seal”
They were not conceived as a group, nor did he seek to publish them in sequence and only after his death in 1850 did publishers treat them as a fixed group.
Many speculate who or what inspired these poems. Some guess that they are an attempt to voice his affection for his sister, Dorothy; his life-long companion. Dorothy was never married and lived with her brother even after he was married. Dorothy eventually fell seriously ill in 1829 and spent the remainder of her life in “a deepening haze of senility”.
Others believe that Lucy represents Peggy Hutchinson, who he loved deeply before her early death in 1796. Wordsworth later married Peggy’s sister Mary in 1802.
Some conclude that Lucy is the personification of Wordworth’s MUSE– feared dead. Wordsworth was traveling in Germany when he wrote these poems and, as a series, they focus on his longing for the company of his friend-Coleridge, who had stayed in England.
Wordsworth himself never commented on the details of her origin or identity.