Critically analyze the poem "The Education of Nature," by poet William Wordsworth.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Most of this poem is spoken by Nature, personified as a woman who explains the death of three-year-old Lucy. Nature explains that she loved Lucy as her child and, as a result, wanted to take her "darling to "herself." She describes Lucy becoming a part of nature after death:

She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn
Or up the mountain springs;
And her's shall be the breathing balm,
And her's the silence and the calm/ Of mute insensate things.

Nature continues to weave a lovely picture of Lucy cavorting through the Lake District as a part of nature in "this happy dell."

Only in the final sestet does the narrator speak at length. He says that nature took Lucy and "the work was done" (i.e, she dies).  He feels emotion at how young she died, as indicated by the exclamation point, and ends with the idea that she left him with the memory of the calm and quiet of the heath where she once lived:

Thus Nature spake—The work was done—
How soon my Lucy's race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.

To a modern audience, this poem can seem a little strange or even sick; it seems to accept and celebrate the death of a three-year-old girl. Therefore, it is important to understand that poems about dead children (which were to grow greatly in popularity during the Victorian period) were—in an era before psychological counseling and in which infant mortality rates were high—a comforting way to memorialize the departed and deal with grief. 

Another way to to analyze this poem is to evaluate Wordsworth in relation to his poetic project. He was badly disillusioned by the way the French Revolution turned into a bloodbath. He saw this firsthand, as he happened to be in France at the time. He had believed in the ideals of liberty and the brotherhood of men that were associated with the revolution and came back to England shattered; he describes his reaction to the event in his long autobiographical poem The Prelude. In this poem, he explains how and why he became a poet. As he coped with disillusionment, he recognized that his role was to record the lives of the simple, forgotten people, the people he had hoped the French Revolutions would set free, in ways that exalted or romanticized their lives. He does this with Lucy, who becomes the beautiful child of nature and not simply a poor cottager's child who dies too soon. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Education of Nature," by William Wordsworth, is about a girl who is blessed by Nature with beauty and vitality, but then suddenly dies, leaving her lover, the narrator, with only "the memory of what has been, / And never more will be."

The poem begins with "Nature," personified as a conscience, speaking person, declaring that it will take "this child"--the girl--to itself.  Nature promises to bless the girl with beauty, grace, and nobility:

"She shall be sportive as the fawn...

And hers the silence and the calm

Of mute insensate things...

And vital feelings of delight

Shall rear her form to stately height,

Her virgin bosom swell"

Suddenly, though, Nature's "work was done" and "Lucy's race was run!"

She died, and left to me This heath, this calm and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,

And never more will be.



The poem consists of 7 stanzas of 6 lines each.  The rhyme scheme in each stanza is AABCCB.

The rhyming pairs of lines 2 and 4, and lines 4-5 generally contain 8 syllables.  The pair of lines 3 and 6 are shorter, containing 6 or 7 syllables.

The entire poem is written in iambics, meaning that the rhythm resembles: da-DUM-da-DUM-da-DUM; for example, consider the first line of the second syllable:

Myself will to my darling be...


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial