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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437

So you’re going to teach William Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems, five poems written between 1798 and 1801 which focus on the speaker’s love for an idealized young woman who meets an untimely death. Whether it’s the first or hundredth time you’ve guided students through these poems, we’ve provided some teaching tips...

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So you’re going to teach William Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems, five poems written between 1798 and 1801 which focus on the speaker’s love for an idealized young woman who meets an untimely death. Whether it’s the first or hundredth time you’ve guided students through these poems, we’ve provided some teaching tips to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for everyone, including you. Studying the Lucy Poems will expose your students to key elements of Romanticism, as well as themes of beauty, nature, and death. This guide highlights the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching. 

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1800–1815 
  • Approximate Word Count: 650 
  • Author: William Wordsworth 
  • Country of Origin: England 
  • Genre: Poetry 
  • Literary Period: Romanticism 
  • Conflict: Nature vs. Society, Person vs. Nature 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Pastoral England 
  • Literary Devices: Ballad Form 
  • Mood: Melancholy, Elegiac


Texts that Go Well with Wordsworth's Lucy Poems

“Annabel Lee,” by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe, like Wordsworth, uses the ballad form to tell the story of a beloved woman who is stolen away by an early death. What characteristics do Annabel and Lucy share, and how are they different? Whose anguish is more compelling, Wordsworth’s or Poe’s? 

“Barbara Allen,” a traditional Scottish ballad. This poem is one of the most famous examples of the folk ballad form. Contrasting it with the Lucy poems illustrates how Wordsworth combines a popular verse form with more sophisticated, nuanced content. 

The preface to Lyrical Ballads, by Wordsworth. The preface spells out what Wordsworth was hoping to achieve with his poetry, and in doing so it expresses many of the fundamental principles of the English Romantic movement. How well do the Lucy poems fulfill Wordsworth’s goals? 

Lyric poems by other English Romantics: “She walks in beauty” by Byron, “To Wordsworth” by Shelley, and “Bright Star” by Keats are examples of Romantic works that provide interesting points of comparison with the Lucy poems. Can students see Wordsworth’s influence on these later poets? 

“To the Memory of a Lady lately Deceased. A Monody,” by George Lyttleton. Advanced students might be interested in this mid-eighteenth-century poem memorializing the poet’s wife, whose name is Lucy and who has died young. The poem isn’t well known now, but it was popular in its day, and was read by Wordsworth, who makes reference to it in his critical writing. Lyttleton embodies many of the poetic principles Wordsworth was rebelling against. Could his Lucy have been an attempt to recast Lyttleton’s sentiments in a fresh poetic form?

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