The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known” is one of six short lyrics generally classified as the “Lucy poems.” William Wordsworth wrote all six between 1799 and 1801, and each speaks about a young woman or young girl who has died. (In “Lucy Gray,” it is a young girl who has died; in others, including “Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known,” Lucy is older and seems to be spoken of as a lover.) Whether Lucy represents a specific person in Wordsworth’s life is not known; the poet’s close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge speculated that the poet may have been inspired to write these works when “in some gloomier moment he [Wordsworth] fancied the moment his sister might die” (David Perkins, English Romantic Writers, 1967). Since Wordsworth was very close to his sister Dorothy, this explanation is plausible, but it is not necessary to offer a biographical interpretation for any of the Lucy poems; they can all be read as explorations of the impact of loss on the speaker, an emotion both universal and particularly poignant.

In “Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known,” the speaker describes a moonlight ride through the English countryside as he travels toward the home of his beloved Lucy. The “strange” fit of passion he wishes to explain to the reader is the rather ironic premonition of death he feels as he rides through the moonlight toward Lucy’s cottage. In the opening stanza, the speaker takes the reader into his confidence...

(The entire section is 538 words.)