Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower by William Wordsworth: Summary and Analysis

William Wordsworth's poem Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, is a lyrical elegy on the untimely demise of Lucy. This poem is also known as 'The Education of Nature', and is considered one of the Lucy poems. Lucy poems are written about an ideal female who is sometimes symbolized as nature, for whom the speaker feels great affection. It was written in the year of 1798 in collaboration with S.T. Coleridge and was published in 1800 in the Lyrical Ballads anthology.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

In this poem Wordsworth personified Nature. He points out the education of nature, and the great influence nature can exercise on human life. Nature has the power to impart education better than all the sages can. The experiment of nature's education has to be tried on Lucy by Nature itself. Nature thinks that she is the most beautiful thing on earth. Nature takes her to make her ‘a lady of her own’. So, Lucy lived in close communion with the objects of nature, the rocks, the earth, the glades, the heaven, the mountains, the clouds, the trees and the storms. But, before she could be a perfect woman, she was snatched away by the cruel hands of death.

The personified nature speaks of Lucy in the first stanza. Nature says, 'A lovelier flower on earth was never sown' than Lucy, and decides to take the child and make her 'A Lady of my own'. In the second stanza this idea is elaborated. Nature will be with the child both 'law and impulse' and have the power to 'kindle or restrain'. The use of words like 'rock', 'plain', 'earth', 'glade', 'bower' all serve to emphasize Lucy's closeness to nature.

The third stanza emphasizes her vital, spontaneous energy and also her equally spontaneous calm and peace. She will have closeness to all nature, ‘The floating clouds their state shall lends To her ' - and will respond to all the natural beauty around her, as stanza five makes clear: 'The stars of midnight shall be dear/To her.’   She will be filled by 'vital' feelings as she grows.

 The final stanza is a contrast and shows, poignantly, the feelings of the lover on Lucy's death— or total merging with nature. But the lover accepts the cyclical pattern of things; he is left with ‘This health, this calm and quiet scene' and the memory of Lucy.

The short poem profoundly teaches us the universal truth of the nature of the life, that is, we are from nature, we sustain by the nature, we have to return to nature and there is no loss of human life after death. It is a loss only to the living. This big but bitter truth must be accepted. Nature is personified in this poem. Lucy is not only a particular person, but also the representative of all organic living beings. Lucy was to be educated by nature as nature dreamt of making her the perfect lady. The poet believes that if a child is given freedom to play in the lap of nature, he or she will be a better person in life.

'Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower' is about the poet’s love to a pure young girl and the loss of the beloved one, as his beloved (Lucy) belongs to nature, her return to nature is her death. The separation made by death, though painful to the living one, it is rewarding to the dead one as he or she returns to where he/she really belongs to. The poem is narrated by nature herself and compares Lucy to a beautiful flower. She claims the flower and wants to make her mature lady of nature upon whom she showers her greatest benefits of grace and beauty. Nature reveals the method of the process of the complex unity of living being while making her almost perfect lady. In the poem the process is one of opposing polarities, of a dialectic from which the living complexity arises:

 My self will to my darling be 

Both law and impulse and with me 

The Girl, in rock and plain,

In earth and heaven, in glade and bower, 

Shall feel an overseeing power 

To kindle or restrain.

The whole passage shows a pattern of antitheses, between 'law and impulse', 'rock and plain', 'earth and heaven', 'glade and bower' and 'kindle' and 'restrain'. These opposing principles are the base of our life. Wordsworth articulates his sense of curiosity at the complex interrelationships between the permanent and fluctuating laws of nature, and the magical intricacies which they produce, that not only the dancing rivulets, but also such phenomena as beautiful young women. Lucy is not passively molded by nature, but she is given all the necessary thoughts of growth.

The reversal of expectations of the nature and the sudden death of Lucy gives a heartbreaking ending to the poem. The beautiful and exciting life has its predictable result: the death. This is not only a lament over the death of Lucy but a truth of the condition of all human life. Though all the powers of nature combine in complex ways to create a human being, finally it is doomed by nature's law to death. The last line is silent, which brings a rare clarity of perception where the lover without making any complaint states that there is nothing more than a memory.

This poem easily delivers a universal truth about human life, a very common truth of death that we live with since our birth but yet we fail to recognize.

This poem can be interpreted as the celebration as the marriage of nature and Lucy at the end. When the physical body of Lucy died, she merges with nature. Her worldly lover, the poet or the speaker, laments for the death and mourned knowing that she will never be back. She will be with nature for ever and ever. So, in this sense, this poem is an elegiac for the human lover and epithalamic (a song sung in marriage) for the nature as she is united with Lucy for the lifelong. Nature is given an interesting role here. At first she seems beautiful and giving but, after a while she dictates the human conditions and takes back Lucy.

This poem has seven stanzas, each containing six lines having an aabccb rhyme scheme. In these short poems, the language is simple, yet intense and moving. The most striking fact is that the speaker in the poem does not speak until the final stanza. Only at the end of the poetry, the speaker let us know why he is writing the poem and what happened to Lucy. Most of the lines are difficult to interpret and language is ambiguous. In some line the diction is simple, but the ideas are difficult to cater.

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Sharma, K.N. "Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower by William Wordsworth: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 25 July 2017,