She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways by William Wordsworth: Summary and Analysis

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways was written in Germany in 1799 and published in 1800. The poet's Lucy is supposed to have lived near the springs of Dove. The river rises on the borders of Derby and Staffordshire near Buxton and Axedge Hill. In spite of this distinct location, Lucy does not seem to be a maiden in real life, but rather compounded out of the attributes of Dorothy, Annette and Mary Hutchinson. The poem tells us the story of the poet’s feeling of loss and grief on the death of Lucy.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

'She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways' is a poem of three stanzas of four lines each. The first stanza tells us of how Lucy lived in a remote area where there was no one to love or praise her. No-one noticed her and her heavenly beauty.  The second stanza identifies her with nature.  She is metaphorically compared with an 'A violet by a mossy stone/Half hidden from the eye!’, and as fair as a shining star. The last stanza comes in the pattern of antithesis, it stresses her isolation and gives extra sadness to the words '..and, oh,/The difference to me'. The affirmation of love is strengthened by this exclamation. Though her death does not bring any change to other’s life, a big difference is made in his life as he passionately loves her.

The poem has great intensity and compression and continues the idea of the cyclical pattern of growth and death. The death is given, again great poignancy; the word 'difference' again being powerfully expressive through understatement.

The short elegiac poem in nature goes through graceful description and mourning in three stanzas. Lucy's unnoticed beauty and importance to the speaker is felt throughout the poem. As the poem is an elegy, its obvious theme is death. The dead Lucy is described, appreciated, and mourned throughout the poem. The loneliness of Lucy's life and the poet's life is another striking theme of the poem. 

The structure of the poem is cyclical. The 'springs of Dove' is the suggestion to the origins of life of the 'violet by a mossy stone'. Lucy, as mentioned in the poem, lived unknown' and her the story life completed in two phases: 'ceased to be' Now 'she is in her grave', and the circle of Lucy's life is closed.

The title of the poem suggests that Lucy lived, both physically and intellectually, unknown and remote. The isolated sensitivity of Lucy expresses a characteristic feature of Romantic expectations of the human condition.

Lucy's "untrodden ways" symbolically stands for her physical isolation and the unknown details of her mind and life. In the poem, the poet is more focused on his experience when reflecting on her death than on the observation of Lucy. The poem is written with an economy of words so as to apprehend the simplicity of Lucy as described by the poet. Though it is short, simple, and has a use of everyday words, it is able to make a great and meaningful poetry with a passionate feeling of love and the grief of the poet.

In 'She dwelt among the untrodden ways', Wordsworth carries the identification of the girl and the country even further. In this poem, he says that Lucy is 'a violet by a mossy stone'; she is 'a star'. Again, there is the same sense of vagueness, and the same emphasis on things 'unknown’,  in the other poem, Wordsworth travelled among 'unknown men', and here it is Lucy who dwells among the untrodden ways and who 'lived unknown'. He tells us nothing practical, nothing factual about her at all. Even the 'springs of Dove' that she dwelled beside are not a real place, which is odd only when one remembers what a passion Wordsworth had for using real places and real place names, and for giving his stories a detailed physical setting. All he tells us about Lucy in this poem is that she lived unknown, and that she is now dead.

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Sharma, K.N. "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways by William Wordsworth: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 25 July 2017,