The 2100 word essay entitled ‘William Wordsworth and Lucy’, on the English essay resource page of the London School of Journalism (http://www.english-literature.org/essays/wordsworth-lucy.html) discusses five of William Wordsworth’s (1770-1850) poems - 'Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known', 'She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways', 'I Travelled Among Unknown Men', 'Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower' and 'A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal' – known as the ‘Lucy’ poems, and how they conform to Wordsworth’s concept of poetry as outlined in his Preface to ‘Lyrical Ballads’ (1800). These poems are counted among Wordsworth’s finest, notwithstanding the question over the identity of ‘Lucy’ that now seems to settle on her being a figment of his imagination, a persona of his deep affection for his sister Dorothy.
Illustrating each point with excerpts from one or more of these five poems and from the Preface, the essay makes the following points:
Contrary to notions of decorum prevalent in his days, the poet relied on passion, emotion and feeling. The love for Lucy, “the joy of desire”, is intense and all-consuming as is the sorrow at her loss. He felt her presence everywhere around him and even his love for his country (a sign of Romanticism, a period in literary history Wordsworth is said to belong to) could be traced to this love for Lucy. Grief is deep and stark, infusing everything, all nature and signs of earlier happiness with poignancy.
Lucy was Wordsworth’s preferred character, solitary and innocent; “humble and rustic” in whom the “essential passions” with permanent appeal reside. This poet stressed on the strength of simplicity.
Imagination that transformed the “ordinary” into the “unusual” was of tremendous significance to Wordsworth and Lucy is proof of this transforming power.
In spite of being unobtrusive and unknown, she is matchless and almost other-worldly, “Fair as a star, when only one / Is shining in the sky.” and someone who “could not feel / The touch of earthly years.”
In these Lucy poems emerges the picture of the poet as a lover and “bard of nature”. They are replete with vivid sketches and descriptions of various facets of nature. Also featuring in them is the supernatural and darker aspect of nature. Nature is the “overseeing power” that nurtures and educates, is “both law and impulse” yet is tinged with doom and foreboding too. The essay comments, “…sublimity of Nature becomes a double-edged sword with its life-sustaining lighter side and a darker side of death.” Eerily, intuitive thoughts are strongest in moments of sleep or dreams.
All the poems, despite the content and strong emotion, are written in a simple euphonious style because the poet believed in speaking the language of the common man. This however does not mean that the poems are composed without skill or craft.
Apart from references to William Wordsworth’s own work, the essay also quotes from William Shakespeare and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to substantiate the points and conclude how these five poems, in addition to being sublime verse, are reflections of the poet’s stand on what poetry ought to be.