In William Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," in what kind of place did Lucy live?

Expert Answers
kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
One can surmise that the nineteenth-century English poet William Wordsworth, who was known for his affection for nature and for his sorrow for the passing of a young girl or woman potentially named "Lucy," sought to equate the two in terms of their purity.  The quintessential Romanticist, Wordsworth penned five poems collectively called "the Lucy poems." These poems constitute an ode to a long-passed woman whom the speaker perceived as innocent. Wordsworth's love of the beauty of nature untainted by humanity was well known, and in "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," he was clearly equating "Lucy" to that unspoiled beauty and innocence. 
 
Little is known about Lucy, though she appears to have died young. "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" offers little in the way of clues as to the kind of place in which Lucy lived. In the speaker's assessment, however, she lived as one with nature, untainted by the moral corruption endemic to much of humanity. The poem's opening lines suggest as much:
She dwelt among the untrodden ways 
Beside the springs of Dove....
"Untrodden ways" suggests a sort of independence and physical if not emotional isolation from the rest of society. Again, given Wordsworth's love of the natural world, his language could be interpreted to suggest that Lucy was the personification of innocence. Precisely how and where Lucy lived, though, is unanswered in this poem. Indeed, the final lines clearly indicate Lucy died as she had lived, removed from mainstream society:
She lived unknown, and few could know 
When Lucy ceased to be; 
But she is in her grave, and, oh, 
The difference to me! 
Wordsworth's idealization of Lucy is equal to his love of the natural world. We can conclude that the kind of place in which Lucy lived was simple or modest and in no way the embodiment of materialism. She represented the unspoiled natural world that Wordsworth greatly preferred.
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the setting in William Wordsworth's “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” is sparsely described, it is actually a very important part of the poem. Wordsworth gives a brief description in the poem's first two lines:

She lived among the untrodden ways,

Beside the springs of Dove

This doesn't tell us much about the setting, but Wordsworth is a great poet and he doesn't need many words to express a lot. We know from these two lines that the poem's subject, a woman named Lucy, lives out in the country where not many people travel (untrodden means untraveled). He doesn't get very specific, but he does tell us that she is close to Dove, which is a 45 mile-long river. I wouldn't be surprised if he chose this river because it happens to rhyme with the word “love,” which appears two lines later.

Wordworth's intent is to describe a beautiful woman who lives a nearly anonymous life. The poem's setting reinforces that idea—there aren't going to be many people in a place that is untrodden.  

Read the study guide:
She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question