Monday, November 13, 2017

She dwelt among the untrodden ways – William Wordsworth



Romantic poetry

William Wordsworth and Samuel Tailor Coleridge composed the “Lyrical Ballad” as a reaction to the School of Augustan Poetry. In Romantic Poetry the poet was an individual set apart from the other human beings by his ability to experience and understand.

The nature in its many folds became the centre of interest. To Wordsworth nature was a source of loveliness. At the same time it provided mankind a moral message. Nature could restore and refresh human spirit and provide companionship. 

She dwelt among the untrodden ways – William Wordsworth

The poem is one of the shorter poems of the collection of poetry called “Lucy Poems”. The poem has three stanzas of four lines each rhyming “ ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, ef”.

 In the first stanza the poet shows a young girl living besides a spring, a place so far away from human habitation.
She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Besides the springs of Dove,
A maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

There were only very few to see or appreciate her. Human beings have an inborn need for companionship. We are gregarious by nature. But this girl is deprived of that basic human need. Therefore, the first stanza carries a sense of melancholy. The image of “Dove” implies innocence but at the same time one must not forget that the dove is also the bird of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. But the maid does not have anyone to love her. 

In the second stanza the poet presents two very vivid metaphoric images. The first is of a violet by a mossy stone. Violets are lovely flowers. The rich green of the moss on the stone contrasts with the purple hue of the flower.  This is a striking image. But it is half hidden from the eye. Like in the case of the maid, only a very few people see the beauty of the flower. 

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
Fair as a star, when one
Is shining in the sky.

The maid is indirectly compared to a star. A star is a part of the heavens. The maid in her pure state is suitably compared to a heavenly object. But it is far away up in the sky. So it is all alone by itself despite its brilliance and beauty. It is not appreciated as it should be, too, as it shines at night. Like the star that shines in the sky when everyone is asleep and the violet that blooms to wither unseen, the unknown girl too live and die unknown. The sensitive poet is the only person grieved by the death of the maid.
“She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!” 

The language is devoid of any dramatic embellishments. Its simplicity is arresting. The writer uses a few old fashioned words to give a misty quality to the poem – “She dwelt among untrodden ways”.

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