A Poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
A Study Guide
Type of Work
.......William Wordsworth's She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways is a three-stanza poem with characteristics of an elegy (in that the poem laments a person's death) and a ballad (in that the poem tells a bit of a story).
.......William Wordsworth wrote the poem while sojourning in Germany in 1798. Longman published it in London in 1800 in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems by Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. "She Dwelt" is one of five Wordsworth poems centering on a woman named Lucy, who died young. Whether she was a real person whom Wordsworth encountered while living in the village of Grasmere in Cumbria County, England, is unknown. Other Lucy poems include "Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower," "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal," "Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known" and "I Travelled among Unknown Men."
By William Wordsworth
She dwelt among the untrodden ways
...Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
...And very few to love:
A violet by a mossy stone.......................................5
...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;...................................10
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
...The difference to me!
.......The rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef. Note, however, that the final syllables of lines 5 and 7 (stone and one) constitute an eye rhyme rather than a sound rhyme. Each of the end rhymes is masculinethat is, only the final syllables are involved in the rhyme. (In feminine rhyme, on the other hand, the
rhyme involves the final two syllables, as in ringing and singing.)
.......The verse format consists mainly of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, as in lines 3 and 4 and lines 11 and 12:
A MAID..|..whom THERE..|..were NONE..|..to PRAISE
And VER..|..y FEW..|..to LOVE
But SHE..|..is IN..|..her GRAVE,..|..and, OH,
The DIFF..|..er ENCE..|..to ME!
An extra syllable appears in lines 1 and 5. One may alter the pronunciation as follows to make them iambic tetrameters.
She DWELT..|..a MONG..|..th'un TROD..|..den WAYS
A VI..|..let BY..|..a MOSS..|..y STONE
One may also pronounce the extra syllable in each line, making one of the feet in the line an anapest.
She DWELT..|..a MONG..|..the un TROD..|..den WAYS
A VI..|..o let BY..|..a MOSS..|..y STONE
.......The noble and virtuous sometimes receive little or no attention during their journey through life. They are blazing stars who soar through the heavens unnoticed or seldom seen, then burn out and die.
Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.
Repetition of a Consonant Sound
when only oneMetaphor
Comparison of Unlike Things Without Using Like, As, or ThanA violet by a mossy stone (comparison of Lucy to a violet)Simile
Comparison of Unlike Things Using Like, As, or ThanFair as a star (comparison of Lucy to a star)Universality
.......The poem can stand as a lament on behalf of all people who go through life unnoticed and unappreciated.
1. Write an essay arguing that Wordsworth's theme remains highly relevant today. Be generous with examples of people who are unnoticed and unappreciated.
2. Write a poem about a person like Lucy.
3. What is the meaning of Maid (line 34)?
4. Lucy dwelt among the untrodden ways in a rural area. Are there untrodden ways in a busy city?
.......Following are links to additional Wordsworth poems analyzed by Cummings Study Guides.