Lucy Gray - William Wordsworth : Summary and Comments

Lucy Gray by William Wordsworth
Sir William Wordsworth

Lucy Gray in one of the finest literary ballad written by William Wordsworth in blank verses. Below is original text and detailed summary of the poem.

Original Text of the Poem:
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.

Summary and Development of Thought in the Poem:
The poem Lucy Gray was written by William Wordsworth based upon a real account of death of a little girl narrated to him by his sister Dorothy. In the poem the poet portraits imagery of a little solitary girl who lived in a house in valley with her father and mother. As she did not have any friend, her most of time was spent in playing alone or helping her parents. Wordsworth further progress by adding that one can get a chance to see a fawn or a rabbit while passing through those valleys (which are usually hard to trace) but you will never be able to see the innocent face of Lucy Gray.

Now Wordsworth takes us back to the sad incident. It was an afternoon and Lucy was at home with her father. Her mother had gone to the town. Her father took his hook and started to pile bundle and instructed Lucy to take the lantern and bring her mother safe before evening because they were anticipation storm. She left for the town but against expected time, the storm arose earlier and Lucy lost the way. She searched for the way back to home but could never find. Her mother came back home. Worried her parents explored the entire valley whole night to catch a sight of Lucy but she was nowhere found.

At the break of the day her parents found patterns of Lucy’s small feet in the snow. They started following those footprints which led them to bridge of the wood which was only a furlong far from there house and after that prints disappeared. It was indication that Lucy had died. Her parents lament for her. The dearest child of the nature was gone. But it is still in belief that Lucy is alive and sings her solitary song in the valley.

Noticeable in this poem is that Wordsworth has not stresses upon death of Lucy but after her death her fusion with the nature. He has tries to associate boundaries of birth and death by this beautiful and calamitous ballad. Wordsworth as a poet of nature, in this poem has associated the action of death with the nature. After the death of Lucy also it is believed that she is alive and her song whistles in the air in the valley as if she has become part of the nature. Beautiful imagery, similes are quite seen as the very flair of William Wordsworth.
Comments and Critical Appreciation of the Poem:
Lucy Gray was written by Sir William Wordsworth in 1799 and published in the second edition of ‘Lyrical Ballad’, collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1800. The poem states story of a little girl named Lucy Gray who died early on a story night in countryside. She lived somewhere in western countryside with her parents. The clue of living in Western Countryside is given in lines ‘The minster-clock has just struck two,/And yonder is the moon!" moon is visible during day time there. She had a small family and no friends. As a solitary child’ she had no mate or someone to talk, ply or share.

Poem Lucy Gray starts with the reference to a popular story of Lucy Gray. Wordsworth has represented Lucy as a child of nature. We can notice in the poem Lucy perhaps, often used to help her parents in small house works because when her mother goes out of the town, her father sends her to fetch her mother. But when storm comes before expected time, Lucy lost her way keep searching for the right path and mysteriously dies. Death of an innocent lonely child hits reader deep and leaves an impact of sorrow. In the end of the poem the poet takes help of supernatural theory to keep Lucy alive in hearts. People still believe that Lucy is not dead and her spirit roams and sings the songs which whistles in the air. This supernatural theme indicates how strongly Lucy was attached to her town and singing her solitary song implies how lonely she was. Tragic end of the poem leaves an everlasting impact on the readers. 

The ballad is written lyrically. A scenic view stands in front of the eyes while reading the poem and imagery is widely used but nowhere seems to be in the excess. Unfortunate death of the little girl in the end of the poem and then keeping her alive in the hearts with the help of supernatural elements is the very own style of Wordsworth.

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  1. I Always read this poem Ist time i read when i was in 10th Standard in 2003, I really like this poem

  2. Wonderful understanding of the poem and its theme. a big thanks to you

  3. it is my favt poeam so i am very like this step No Mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
    She dwelt on a wild Moor,
    The sweetest Thing that ever grew
    Beside a human door!

  4. Thank you very much and may Allah bless you :)


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