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She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
A Poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
A Study Guide
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Type of Work
Composition and Publication
Setting
Text of the Poem
Rhyme and Meter
Theme
Figures of Speech
Universality
Study Questions
Writing Topics
Biography
More Wordsworth Poems
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Compiled by Michael J. Cummings... 2010
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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). 

Composition and Publication

.......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." 

Setting

.......The poem is set in northern England in Cumbria County's Lake District, near the village of Grasmere, where Wordsworth maintained a cottage. 
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She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
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!

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Rhyme and Meter

.......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 masculine—that 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:
 

.....1..................2......................3...................4
A MAID..|..whom THERE..|..were NONE..|..to PRAISE
Iambic Tetrameter (Four Feet)
.....1................2..............3
And VER..|..y FEW..|..to LOVE
Iambic Trimeter (Three Feet)
.....1.............2...............3..................4
But SHE..|..is IN..|..her GRAVE,..|..and, OH,
Iambic Tetrameter (Four Feet)
.....1.................2.............3
The DIFF..|..er ENCE..|..to ME!
Iambic Trimeter (Three Feet)

An extra syllable appears in lines 1 and 5. One may alter the pronunciation as follows to make them iambic tetrameters.
 

........1...................2................3...................4
She DWELT..|..a MONG..|..th'un TROD..|..den WAYS
Iambic Tetrameter (Four Feet)
...1..........2..............3
A VI..|..let BY..|..a MOSS..|..y STONE
Iambic Tetrameter (Four Feet)

One may also pronounce the extra syllable in each line, making one of the feet in the line an anapest.
 

........1...................2................3...................4
She DWELT..|..a MONG..|..the un TROD..|..den WAYS
Iambic (1, 2, 4), Anapestic (3)
..1...........2.................3................4
A VI..|..o let BY..|..a MOSS..|..y STONE
Iambic (1, 3, 4), Anapestic (2)

Theme

.......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.

Figures of Speech

Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem.

Alliteration
Repetition of a Consonant Sound

Beside the springs of Dove
Half hidden
when only one
Metaphor
Comparison of Unlike Things Without Using Like, As, or Than
A violet by a mossy stone (comparison of Lucy to a violet)
Simile
Comparison of Unlike Things Using Like, As, or Than
Fair 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.

Study Questions and Writing Topics

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?

More Wordsworth Poems

.......Following are links to additional Wordsworth poems analyzed by Cummings Study Guides.

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge
Expostulation and Reply
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
The World Is Too Much With Us.
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