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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Analyze the poem "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" by William Wordsworth.

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Wordsworth's "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways" is a poem celebrating a woman whom the speaker has loved and lost.

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She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways” is one of Wordsworth’s “Lucy poems.” There is a debate about who Lucy was or who “Lucy” represented. Fittingly (since we don’t really know who she was), the speaker describes her as “A violet by a mossy stone/Half hidden from the eye!” With the exception of the speaker (presumably Wordsworth), she lived, and died, unnoticed and loved by few.

The poem begins with “She dwelt,” so we know right away that Lucy is dead. She is described as physically isolated from the world and generally unknown. This physical isolation and mystery could imply that Lucy is not real. She is just an Ideal person from whom Wordsworth gets inspiration. For example, the speaker also says she is as fair as one star shining in the sky. One star in the sky is bound to be noticed by everyone. But I think the speaker is making a comparison that she was not noticed by most people, but that he noticed her as if she were the only thing noticeable.

The Lucy poems are written as if the speaker has admired her from afar. Even if Lucy represented a real person, she also represented an Ideal for Wordsworth. If she represented this Ideal concept of inspiration and she died, then the speaker is lamenting the loss of his source of inspiration. This could be general despair, nostalgia or even just a creative slump. The consolation is that he has the memory of Lucy: the person or the source of inspiration (Imagination).

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Write an analysis of "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways."

In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker describes a woman who lived in a remote place, "besides the springs of Dove." The River Dove is in the Peak District in England. The speaker says that there was nobody to "praise" the woman, "and very few to love" her. In other words, this woman lived a solitary and quiet life. She had nobody to praise her and "very few" people who loved her. The implication is that she deserved more praise and more love than she was given.

In the second stanza, the speaker says that the woman was "A Violet by a mossy stone" and "a star when only one / Is shining in the sky!" These naturalistic metaphors suggest that the woman was very beautiful. She was more beautiful than the average woman, as a "Violet" is more beautiful than a "mossy stone." The metaphor describing her as a "star" also implies that she was, at least to the speaker, a ray of light in an otherwise dark world.

In the third and final stanza, the speaker emphasizes the impression that the woman lived a solitary life when he says "she liv'd unknown." He then says that "few could know / When Lucy ceas'd to be." Here, then we learn that this woman (who we now know was called "Lucy") has died, and we know too that her death went largely unnoticed.

In the last two lines of the poem the speaker exclaims, "she is in her Grave, and Oh! / The difference to me!" The point here is that while this woman may not have meant much to many other people, she meant a great deal to the speaker. In the final line, the speaker suggests that even though Lucy's life and death seemed to make little difference to most people, to him they made a very significant difference.

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Can you help me paraphrase "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" by William Wordsworth?

Despite its compact form, William Wordsworth's "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" is a dense poem that incorporates many layers of meaning. As such, it can be quite difficult to paraphrase, especially if you're feeling unsure about the meaning of the poem. Though there's a great deal going on here, for our purposes I think it would be fine to focus on one aspect of the poem: the recognition of the ways in which the most ordinary being can still be existentially significant.

With this idea in mind, here's an example of a very short paraphrase of this poem:

Lucy, a young, relatively unknown girl, lived alone in nature far from conventional human society. Her dwelling place abounded with a great deal of natural beauty. Since she lived alone and had few connections to society, her death went more or less unnoticed. Even so, Lucy's death is considered to be highly significant for the narrator and (it's implied) an immense source of grief.

This quick paraphrase hardly does Wordsworth's excellent verse justice; however, it does highlight an important theme in the poem: the idea that even the most common person can achieve great significance. With this idea in mind, read the poem again and try to come up with your own paraphrased version.

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