"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" is one of Wordsworth's beloved "Lucy" poems, which are set in rural England. It is probable although not certain that the poem's setting is in or near the Lake District, a rugged area in northwestern England where Wordsworth spent much of his life and which he often celebrated in his poetry. Wordsworth is, in fact, one of several poets known as "the Lake poets" because they lived in and wrote about the wildly scenic Lake District. "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" captures Wordsworth's love for rural England, and his distinctive Romantic sensibility.
The Lake District
The Lake District in northwestern England is the rugged, scenic area of many mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and it is still a popular destination for tourists, hikers and campers. Wordsworth found the inspiration for many of his greatest poems in the unspoiled natural beauty of this rural part of England, dotted with farms and villages, which he considered morally and aesthetically superior to the cities of the industrial revolution. "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" specifically mentions that Lucy lived "beside the springs of Dove," but because there are several springs of that name in the Lake District and surrounding regions, probably all familiar to Wordsworth, it is impossible to pinpoint an exact geographic location for this poem. Instead, it evokes a more general image of a remote rural setting, probably (although not necessarily) in the Lake District.
The Romantic Movement
Wordsworth is a leading poet of the Romantic movement, a literary, artistic, philosophical and cultural movement that swept Europe in the earliest decades of the 19th century. Romanticism emphasized individual freedom, emotion, and a reverence for nature and wildness. Wordsworth's "Lucy" poems, including "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," are typical of the Romantic movement, because they celebrate a simple life free from the artificial constraints of society and lived in close contact with the purifying and elevating influence of nature.
Wordsworth was a leading poet of the Romantic movement. His earliest poetry was published in 1793, and by the time he died in 1850 he had become England's poet laureate. Wordsworth is celebrated not only for his own work, but also for his influence upon other leading poets of the time, particularly his close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth's beautiful, lyrical poetry celebrates the common man; the virtues of a simple, rural life; and the almost mystical power of the beauty of nature.
The Lucy Poems
"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" is one of Wordsworth's five "Lucy" poems. Although many have speculated on whether a real Lucy existed, who she was and what relationship she had with Wordsworth, the truth remains shrouded in mystery. The "Lucy" poems celebrate nature, and the virtue and beauty of a simple, solitary life lived close to nature. They also capture an intense love, and the ultimate sorrow of the poet's loss of his beloved Lucy to an early death.