Almost all poetry of Wordsworth involves Nature at some level. In some poems, it is the vessel through which his philosophy is expressed ( Ode to Immortality, To a skylark, etc), while in others, Nature is described for its own sake – for Nature in Wordsworth’s poetry is but a form of God and the poems of the latter category can be taken as hymns to God from a Nature poet. Due to the great number of poems he authored, it is difficult to isolate just three that describe his strengths as a Nature poet the best.
However, since I strongly believe Wordsworth was at his best as a Nature poet in poems that show his love for Nature for its own sake and it is in these poems that his romantic imagination and narrative powers are most enchanting, I shall be describing three of the enigmatic Lucy poems – “Lucy Gray”, “Three years she grew in sun and shower” and “She dwelt among the untrodden ways” to show Wordsworth’s strengths as a Nature poet.
One of the attributes of Wordsworth’s poetry that gives them a timeless appeal is perhaps his effective use of imagery. For instance, in “Lucy Gray”, the establishment of Lucy as the personification of the more elusive, delicate aspects of Nature is complete in the very first stanza in the lines, “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”.
Here, the fawn and hare are aspects of Lucy’s own nature – playful, innocent and common. This is reinforced in the form of a simile in “Three years she grew in sun and shower” – “She shall be as the sportive fawn/ That wild with glee across the lawn/ Or up the mountain springs”. The sheer beauty of the image reaches its crescendo in the lines “… she shall lend her ear/ In many a secret place/Where rivulets dance their wayward round/ And beauty born of murmuring sound/ Shall pass into her face.
Wordsworth’s greatness as a poet lies in the fact that not only is he able to describe Lucy purely in terms of nature through imagery but also, in that he can communicate his immense love for those aspects of Nature – the delicate, transient and common though imagery, as he describes Lucy – “A violet by a mossy stone/ Half-hidden from the eye/ Fair as a star when only one/ Is shining in the sky. ” The Lucy poems are, in my opinion, especially relevant in the appreciation of Wordsworth as a great Nature poet for they firmly establish Wordsworth’s versatility as a Nature poet.
Lucy – “the solitary child” is more than just that. Lucy is the embodiment of an idea that works at several levels. At the most apparent level, she is an embodiment of the virginal, quaint beauty of the author’s beloved homeland – the Lake District that he missed so badly when these poems were written. Seen in the context of Wordsworth’s stay in Germany at this time, and his insecurities about even returning to his home, the lines – “The memory of what has been/ And never more will be” take on a different meaning.
However, it would be doing injustice to the poems if this is the only significance that is detected in the rich, emotive lines of the Lucy poems. The author is also superlative in establishing Lucy as a symbol of the unsullied, divine innocence that is so hard to find in human nature. Perhaps, the reason why Lucy dies is because the perfect innocence she embodies is something fated “to be lost in the light of the common day” as she grows up.
Instead, remaining the eternal muse to romantic imagination, “Nature said, ‘A lovelier flower/ On earth was never sown; / This child I to myself will take,/ She shall be mine, and I will make/ A lady of my own” and with this, she returned to the “lonesome wild”. On a different level, the Lucy poems are also beautiful parables of the love and loss of human life.
Almost all the poems end with the indication of Lucy’s death and the author terrible sense of loss at that – “She lived unknown, and few could know/ When Lucy ceased to be; / But she is in her grave and oh! The difference to me”. These lines emote the absolute indifference of the world to one man’s loss and mirror our isolation in our grief and yet, for Wordsworth, hope is always to be found in Nature. Hence, “Lucy Gray”, Wordsworth is at his finest as he transforms Lucy from a mere girl to the undying nature of hope in a single stanza – “Yet some maintain to this day/ She is a living child, /That you may see sweet Lucy Gray/ Upon the lonesome wild”.
The simple language and a rhyme scheme that imparts a musical character to the poems are the anatomical aspects of the Lucy poems that show the strengths of Wordsworth as a Nature poet. Indeed, when all the aspects of the poems are considered, they indicate a sensitive thinker in Wordsworth that seamlessly blends narrative and allegory to express his philosophy that “The meanest flower that blows can give / Thought that do often lie too deep for tears”.