Collected in the Lyrical Ballads, among the ‘Lucy’ series, the poem She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways, retraces the poet’s prevalent meditative mood.
The poem begins with the third person pronoun, “she” and the poet immediately offers an objective detachment from the subjective persona. The mysterious aura is at once developed for she dwelt in the “untrodden ways” and that has made all the difference in her life. A poet is an act of recalling where the unknown “she” is shunned into the past tense. Melancholia and ecstasy comingle at the word “Maid”. There is none to praise and love the maid; she seems solitary and secluded. The poet utilizes the distancing of the figure to counter-establish her prominence- she shines in the lonely grandeur.
The poet is fascinated and awed by the enchantress. In the second stanza, the figure of the lady is idealized. To the poet “she” is the epitome of beauty. She has been equated with the Goddess of love, assigned with the color violet and shines as the brightest star. But her residence has caught moss, and the poet hints at his eventual meditation on her death.
The third stanza establishes the fascination with the unknown and the unknowable, whose worth seems to be solely a private affair with the poet. The poet in a somber-contemplative tone reminisces the seat of beauty signified by the signifier called Lucy, who is as elusive as a poet’s figment of imagination ready to capture the solitary immanent. She is named only after her death as if the poet can no longer contain his exuberant emotions and is desperate to give a form to the abstract female-beauty. Lucy now radiates her beauty from her grave and though the poet grieves at the loss, he does take pride in ‘Lucy’ being his solitary affair.
Rhetorical Devices in She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
Rhetorical devices have been implemented to complement the poet’s feelings and emotions for the character called Lucy. The word “she” takes up the personification of a figure representing beauty and truth. The beauty of the maiden is highlighted by the use of antithetical yet complimentary images. To arouse the “loveliness of body and spirit”, a pair of opposite images are encapsulated in the second stanza: a solitary “violet” unseen and unknowable, and Venus, emblem of love, and the first star of the evening, public and visible to all. The private and the public spheres are brought together in the poet’s vision and approximation of beauty.
The phase “springs of Dove” can literally signify a physical space, and metaphorically a comprehensive state of the ideal. The word spring takes up the meaning of youthful exuberance. The lady is at the spring of her youth. The connotations of springs bring the reference of the May Day, popular for the celebration of human sexuality and fertility. Yet the metaphor of Dove mars the figure with ideas of purity, chastity signified by the color white. The poet seems to be in appreciation of both the carnal and Platonic conception of love. And the word “Maid” is a personification where the poet’s desire and adoration for Lucy meet.
The word “violet” is again an allusion to Venus, the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory, whose glory is segregated by the alliterative “half hidden”. The repetitive ‘h’ emphasizes the preservation of the poet’s conception of Lucy as deified. The status of the goddess is supported by the use of simile and Lucy is directly compared to the fair shining star. Hyperbolic expression is employed to glorify the presence of the sanctified woman.
Rhyme Scheme in She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
She dwelt among the untrodden ways consists of three quatrains. The poem is written with a lilting simplicity. The rhyme scheme is ‘abab, cdcd, efef’. Each of the end rhymes is masculine where only the final syllables are involved in the rhyme. The poem rarely uses hard consonant sounds. The verse format rhymes mainly with iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, as in lines 3 and 4 and lines 11 and 12. Hope you enjoyed going through the rhyme scheme of She dwelt among the untrodden ways.