As poet with a vision that changed the course of poetry, Wordsworth stated in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads that he hoped to focus attention on nature and elevate the common person. This was a contrast to the Augustan poets such as Alexander Pope who focused on heroic figures from classical times: the famous and important people living in the thick of society.
Lucy Gray is an obscure girl growing up in a cottage on the moors, the child of poor parents who must work for a living. A solitary child of nature, she loves to play by herself on the moors. One short winter day, when the sun sets early (Lucy notes that it is 2 o'clock in the afternoon, but she can already see the moon), her father sends her off with a lantern to meet her mother and help guide her home through the darkness. Instead, Lucy disappears in a snowstorm. Her parents search for her all night, following her footprints through the snow to a wooden bridge. Here, her footsteps disappear.
They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank;
And further there were none!
Her body is never recovered, leading some to say she is still alive. These folk maintain: "She is a living child ... you may see sweet Lucy Gray / Upon the lonesome wild."
Wordsworth revered nature and by showing Lucy as a child of nature, almost one with nature, he elevated her. By focusing attention on an obscure person, Wordsworth showed that ordinary people had dignity and were worth thinking about.