The “Lucy” Poems and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

One aspect of the “Lucy” poems that I found particularly interesting was that the poems struck me as very different from other poems about a loved one who has passed. As I read these poems, I thought about poems that I have read in other classes on this topic. Obituaries also came to my mind, as these works usually focus on what the person did during their life, highlighting things that were particularly important to them or struck their surviving family as large parts of their personality. 

I think that what made this poem feel different is that, especially in “Three years she grew”, Lucy is portrayed as almost non-human. What I mean by this is that when I was reading this poem, I thought of Greek and Roman myths that I have read in the past; in particular, The Metamorphoses. Ovid’s work moves through myths and stories, many of them focusing on how something or someone was created or came to life, and how they, later, perished. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is full of natural comparisons, the stories of nymphs and other minor gods/goddesses who live among nature, and generally prominently features the natural world. A few lines, in particular, struck me as similar to Ovid’s descriptions, such as when Wordsworth writes, “She shall be sportive as the fawn” (Three years she grew 13). Another few lines in “Three years she grew” definitely made me believe that Wordsworth was attempting to paint Lucy in a goddess-like light. He writes, “The Girl, in rock and plain, / In earth and heaven, in glade and bower, / Shall feel an overseeing power / To kindle or restrain” (9-12). To me, this made it sound as though Lucy had a great deal of power over the natural world.

I felt that Wordsworth was trying to portray Lucy as someone who had such a brief and overwhelming presence in the narrator’s life and great power over his emotions, just as she had over the natural world. The lives of many women in Ovid’s Metamorphoses are often portrayed as brief and full of ups and downs. I felt that Wordsworth did this with Lucy as well; it is easy to understand, then, why the narrator is so struck by her death. 

One thought on “The “Lucy” Poems and Ovid’s Metamorphoses”

  1. I think this observation holds especially true if we read Lucy as a stand-in for Wordsworth’s younger self. She is the nymph, too perfect to be left unscathed: he is the laurel tree, the form that takes over to protect her. She is part of the past, and deprived of a voice: Wordsworth’s poetry is the tapestry she weaves in lieu of a tongue.

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