'Lucy Gray' by William Wordsworth

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Oft I had heard of Lucy Gray:
And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child.

No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
She dwelt on a wide moor,
--The sweetest thing that ever grew
Beside a human door!

You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The hare upon the green;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.

"To-night will be a stormy night--
You to the town must go;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your mother through the snow."

"That, Father! will I gladly do:
'Tis scarcely afternoon--
The minster-clock has just struck two,
And yonder is the moon!"

At this the Father raised his hook,
And snapped a faggot-band;
He plied his work;--and Lucy took
The lantern in her hand.

Not blither is the mountain roe:
With many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,
That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time:
She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb:
But never reached the town.

The wretched parents all that night
Went shouting far and wide;
But there was neither sound nor sight
To serve them for a guide.

At day-break on a hill they stood
That overlooked the moor;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.

They wept--and, turning homeward, cried,
"In heaven we all shall meet;"
--When in the snow the mother spied
The print of Lucy's feet.

Then downwards from the steep hill's edge
They tracked the footmarks small;
And through the broken hawthorn hedge,
And by the long stone-wall;

And then an open field they crossed:
The marks were still the same;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost;
And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank;
And further there were none!

--Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living child;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome wild.

O'er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

Editor 1 Interpretation

William Wordsworth's Lucy Gray: An In-Depth Analysis

As one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, William Wordsworth has left an indelible mark on poetry through his timeless works that continue to inspire generations of readers. One of his most poignant poems is Lucy Gray, which tells the story of a young girl who goes missing in the snow. This poem is a hymn to the beauty of nature, to the power of memory, and to the fragility of human life. In this literary criticism and interpretation of Lucy Gray, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and historical context of this masterpiece.


At its core, Lucy Gray is a poem about loss, grief, and the transitory nature of life. The poem describes how Lucy, a young girl who is "lovely as a rose in June," goes missing in the snow, and how her parents and friends search in vain for her. The sadness of this event is compounded by the fact that Lucy is never found, and it is strongly implied that she has died. The poem imagines her as a "solitary child" wandering through the snow, "far away from home." Wordsworth uses this image to convey a sense of the child's vulnerability and innocence.

Another theme of the poem is the power of nature. Lucy Gray is set in the winter, and the poem describes the snow-covered hills, the frozen lake, and the icy wind. Wordsworth's depiction of nature is not only beautiful but also ominous. The snow is both a source of wonder and a source of danger, and Lucy's fate is a reminder of the harshness of the natural world.

Finally, Lucy Gray is a poem about memory and the way that we remember those we have lost. The poem ends with a haunting image of Lucy's spirit "haunting" the hills where she used to play. This image suggests that even though Lucy is gone, she lives on in the memories of those who loved her. The poem therefore celebrates the power of memory to preserve the past and keep it alive.

Literary Devices

William Wordsworth is known for his use of literary devices, and Lucy Gray is no exception. One of the most notable devices in the poem is personification. Wordsworth personifies nature, giving it human qualities such as "silent," "still," and "sleeping." This technique is used to create a sense of the natural world as a living, breathing organism, with its own moods and emotions.

Another literary device that Wordsworth employs in Lucy Gray is imagery. The poem is full of vivid descriptions of the natural world, from the "snowy hills" to the "frozen lake." The use of imagery helps to create a sense of place and atmosphere, and it also contributes to the theme of the power of nature.

The poem also uses symbolism to convey its themes. For example, the snow is a symbol of both beauty and danger, representing the natural world in all its complexity. The frozen lake is a symbol of stasis and stillness, representing the way that life can sometimes come to a halt. Finally, Lucy herself is a symbol of innocence and vulnerability, representing the fragility of human life.

Historical Context

Lucy Gray was written in 1799, during the Romantic era, a period marked by a fascination with nature, emotion, and individualism. Wordsworth was one of the leading poets of this movement, and Lucy Gray is a quintessential Romantic poem. The poem celebrates the beauty of nature, the power of memory, and the fragility of human life, all of which were key themes of the Romantic movement.

At the same time, however, Lucy Gray also reflects the social and political context of its time. The poem was written during a period of great social upheaval, with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars causing widespread turmoil throughout Europe. This sense of instability is reflected in the poem's focus on loss and grief, and its depiction of the natural world as both beautiful and dangerous.


Lucy Gray is a powerful and haunting poem that continues to resonate with readers today. The poem's themes of loss, grief, and the power of nature are timeless, as is its celebration of the beauty of memory. The poem's use of literary devices, such as personification, imagery, and symbolism, helps to create a vivid and evocative portrait of the natural world and the human experience. Overall, Lucy Gray is a testament to William Wordsworth's skill as a poet and his enduring legacy as one of the most important figures of the Romantic era.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Lucy Gray: A Poem of Loss and Transcendence

William Wordsworth, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, is known for his deep connection with nature and his ability to capture the beauty and mystery of the natural world in his poetry. One of his most famous poems, Lucy Gray, is a haunting and evocative work that explores themes of loss, grief, and transcendence.

The poem tells the story of Lucy Gray, a young girl who gets lost in a snowstorm while walking home from her family's cottage. Despite her parents' desperate search for her, Lucy is never found, and her fate remains a mystery. The poem is divided into five stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of Lucy's story and the emotions it evokes.

The first stanza sets the scene and introduces Lucy as a "solitary child" who is "loved by all the village maidens." The use of the word "solitary" immediately creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, which is reinforced by the image of Lucy walking alone in the snow. The fact that she is loved by the other girls in the village suggests that she is a kind and gentle soul, and this makes her disappearance all the more tragic.

The second stanza describes the snowstorm that Lucy gets lost in, and it is here that Wordsworth's skill as a poet really shines through. The imagery he uses is vivid and powerful, and it creates a sense of danger and foreboding. The snow is described as "blinding" and "drifting," and the wind is "howling" and "roaring." These words create a sense of chaos and confusion, and they make it clear that Lucy is in grave danger.

The third stanza is perhaps the most poignant, as it describes Lucy's parents' search for her. They call out her name and search the woods and fields, but there is no sign of her. The use of the word "despair" in this stanza is particularly effective, as it conveys the depth of the parents' grief and the hopelessness of their situation. The fact that they never find Lucy makes her disappearance all the more tragic, and it leaves the reader with a sense of sadness and loss.

The fourth stanza is where the poem takes a turn towards the mystical and transcendent. Lucy is described as a "spirit" who "haunts" the woods where she was lost. This image is both eerie and beautiful, and it suggests that Lucy has transcended her physical form and become something more. The fact that she is described as a "spirit" rather than a ghost or a corpse is significant, as it suggests that she has moved beyond the realm of the living and into a more spiritual realm.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close, and it is here that Wordsworth's message becomes clear. He suggests that Lucy's spirit is still present in the natural world, and that she is a part of the landscape that she loved so much. The image of the "little cottage girl" who "dances in the wind" is both joyful and melancholy, and it suggests that Lucy's spirit is both free and trapped at the same time. The fact that she is still dancing and playing suggests that she is happy and at peace, but the fact that she is still in the same place where she was lost suggests that she is also trapped and unable to move on.

Overall, Lucy Gray is a powerful and evocative poem that explores themes of loss, grief, and transcendence. Wordsworth's use of vivid imagery and his ability to capture the beauty and mystery of the natural world make this poem a true masterpiece of Romantic poetry. The fact that it is based on a true story only adds to its power and resonance, and it is a testament to Wordsworth's skill as a poet that he was able to take such a tragic event and turn it into a work of art that continues to resonate with readers today.

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