Summary of the Analysis:
She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways
The poem "She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways" is very simple. It consists of three short stanzas. The first two stanzas focus on Lucy while she is still alive, and the last stanza tells the reader of Lucy's death and the poet's response to it. In these short stanzas, the poet tells of his admiration and singular devotion to Lucy and his utter despair over her death.
Characteristics of Poem
• Using simple diction
• is simple only in appearance.
• Its language is so lucid and "ordinary",
• economical stanzas of four lines each with every second line (ab ab) rhyming give the poem simplicity, like the subject itself.
• used the typical ballad meter of iambic stressed/unstressed, in which the first and third lines typically have four stresses, and the second and fourth have three stresses.
• words mostly consist of one syllable
His purpose in writing this seems to be twofold. The poem is his own pensive meditations or reflections about his feelings of loss, particularly in losing Lucy. And the other purpose is to elevate her status by offering her this ode in which he praises the unrecognized beauty of this ideal woman.
On the Poem
• In the first stanza, lines like, "none to praise," "very few to love," and the word "untrodden" tell the reader that Lucy was a nobody to everyone except the poet.
• In the second stanza, Wordsworth's aim is to show her innocence and beauty again. He uses two simple metaphors to emphasize these qualities. "A violet by a mossy stone" and "Fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky."
• " Diction is also used here to create impact. She is a flower unnoticed, "half-hidden from the eye." So, she is not the beautiful violet out in full glory for the world to see but is half-hidden by a stone instead.
• Her isolation is also revealed in the second metaphor. She is "fair as a star," but when there is only one star in the entire sky. She is pure and rare. Some speculate that Wordsworth is referring to the star Venus who comes out all alone after sunset and is hence, the first star.
• In the third stanza, Wordsworth tells the reader of Lucy's death. He doesn't just say she died. He says, "She ceased to be," which creates greater impact with the typical expectancy of an infinitive. Again, the diction of anonymity is shown in that she lived "unknown" and "few could know."
• However, in the last two lines, her significance to Wordsworth is made very clear with "and oh, the difference to me!" Wordsworth clearly experiences a great sense of loss at her death. This last line also emphasizes her "only one" status as the only star in the sky.
• The exclamation point at the end of the poem puts even more emphasis on his feelings of love and loss, even though they seem sparsely understated.
• Besides metaphors, there are also other literary techniques used to emphasize portions of the text. However, the sparse diction is part of the appeal so there is not an abundance of elements.
• Alliteration is used in lines like "half-hidden." Sibilance is used throughout with lines like "as a star" and "sky." The sibilance serves to emphasize the remoteness of the subject and the poem itself. It serves to emphasize the lonely atmosphere and woman that Wordsworth describes.
• Assonance is used in almost every line of the poem. "Dove, " "none," "love," "mossy stone" "I shining," "sky," "unknown," "know," "ceased," "be," "she, " "me" and many more. The use of this repeated assonance gives the poem a musical or nursery rhyme quality about it.
• Verbs are used often in the infinitive form to signal hope. "To love," "to praise," and "to be" are examples.
• His two metaphors serve to illustrate the contrast in her. In some ways, she is a half-hidden flower and in other ways the only star in the sky. In either case, she is completely isolated from others and almost seems a part of Nature.
In many ways, this poem is a beautiful elegy. As Wooding says, "If all elegies are mitigations of death, the Lucy poems are also meditations on simple beauty, by distance made more sweet and by death preserved in distance" (Woodring 48). William Wordsworth has shown the reader through economical diction and beautiful simplicity his love for this neglected woman whose beauty and dignity were overlooked by everyone but the poet. From his short descriptions, the reader almost feels that she can picture this woman in her mind and feels sadness at the passing of one so largely ignored by everyone but the poet.
She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:
A violet by a mosy tone
Half hidden from the eye!
---Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.
She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!