woman sitting among purple grass at night with a flower on her chest and in her long, flowing hair

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

by William Wordsworth

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What kind of life did Lucy live? What effect does Lucy’s death have on the poet?  

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Lucy lived a quiet, obscure life in a cottage in an out of the way place in the English Lake District. Because of her isolated life, few people knew her, and therefore few could love her. The narrator compares her to a violet growing so close to a mossy stone that it is half hidden from view.

Lucy is reminiscent of the simple, common people who Thomas Grey comments on in his "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." Gray compares obscure villagers to flowers that bloom undetected:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

It is likely that Wordsworth, who wanted to celebrate the lives of simple people, was alluding to Gray's famous poem. Lucy is like Gray's unseen flower, beautiful only to the very few who know her.

One of them is the speaker, who mourns her early death. He is emotionally moved by losing her, as the lamenting "oh," and the exclamation point at end of the poem signify:

But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
The poet's point is that a person does not need to be important nor well known to make a significant impact on another person's life. Lucy's death matters to the speaker and, therefore, even though humble, Lucy will be remembered.
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In William Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," the girl Lucy appears to have lived a life of relative anonymity, isolation, and loneliness. For instance, in the first line Wordsworth says that "She dwelt among the untrodden ways," suggesting that she lived alone far from conventional communities. Furthermore, at the end of the first stanza he claims that Lucy was "A Maid whom there were none to praise / And very few to love" (3-4), which suggests that few people loved or even cared about her. Despite this fact, Wordsworth concludes his poem by saying "she is in her grave, and, oh, / The difference to me!" (11-12). 

All in all, Wordsworth suggests that, though Lucy lived in relative obscurity, he found her life to be incredibly meaningful. Thus, the poem becomes an exploration of the ways in which even the simplest of people can still live lives of great significance. Since Wordsworth communicates this compelling idea in a few short lines, it's hardly surprising that this poem has proven to be one of his most popular compositions. 

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