Imagery in William Wordsworth’s Literary Pieces

Published 15 Sep 2017

William Wordsworth is one of the most well known romantic poets of the 18th century who have produced prolific poems usually related to love, death and grief. His poems, Strange Fits of Passion I Have Known and She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways are two of his literary works which revolves around the concept of the speaker’s love for a particular girl named Lucy. However, the concept of death is also eminent in the last few lines of these two poems. The feelings and emotions of the speaker is very clear because of the author’s effective use of literary elements such as imagery and tone.

Wordsworth is one of the very effective poets in terms of providing descriptive visual imageries to his readers. In his poem, Strange Fits of Passion I Have Known, he describes a particular “strange fit of passion”; that he has experienced. In the first stanza, he speaks of the strangeness of the feeling and he only dares tell it to someone who can relate to him—a lover too.

STRANGE fits of passion have I known:
And I will dare to tell,
But in the Lover’s ear alone,
What once to me befell (lines 1-4).


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In the second stanza, the speaker starts describing the physical characteristics of the girl as always “Fresh as a rose in June” (6). This is his thought as he describes himself headed to her cottage one evening. He tells the readers how he stares up at the moon which is illuminating the entirety of the field ahead of him where paths are very familiar and dear to him. The tone of the speaker in his description of the place gives an impression to the readers that he appreciates and loves the place so much. It also indicates the intimacy not only between him and his love but also in these places where he has often passed with his horse. In the fourth stanza, the speaker mentions that they are already approaching the hill and he notices the moon becoming larger and nearer to the cottage of Lucy—the girl he is referring to. The succeeding fifth and sixth stanza, Wordsworth lessens the pace of the poem as the speaker focuses on the moon. “And all the while my eyes I kept / On the descending moon”; (19-20). The image of him riding on a horse while watching the moon’s descent behind the cottage reveals a sense of suspense for the readers as he adds how the “horse moved on; hoof after hoof / He raised, and never stopped:”; (21-22). Furthermore, the suspense is heightened at the last line of the sixth stanza where he describes the sudden line “At once, the bright moon dropped”; (24). Afterwards, he immediately follows the line with the last stanza that conveys a strong message filled with worries and fears.

What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a Lover’s head!
“O mercy!”; to myself I cried,
“If Lucy should be dead!”; (25-28).

The imagery and tone of the poem is somewhat melancholic. The nighttime setting of the poem and the image of a man riding his way to a cottage where a bright moon sinks behind it reveals a poignant tone. This imagery is quite comparable to the second poem, She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways, where the speaker illustrates the nonconformity and solitude of a woman similarly named Lucy. This short poem is very simplistic in form. It is easy to understand because of the simple words which are used, thus, the readers would not find it hard to visualize and sense the emotions of the speaker towards the subject of the poem.

In the first stanza, the speaker portrays the girl as a person who chooses the way of a loner. The “untrodden ways”; refers to the girl’s preference to go the other way where no common people go. She is described to be a girl as “A maid whom there were none to praise / And very few to love:”; (lines 3-4). Wordsworth highlights her characteristics in the succeeding stanza as someone who is unknown to many but who possesses something that only a few, like him, could see.

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky (5-8).

It is noticeable that the first two stanzas, Wordsworth does not indicate whether he is in love with the girl. He is merely describing her as a lonely people whom everyone is unaware of with the exception of the speaker. It is only in the end when the readers finally realizes that the speaker has deeper feelings for Lucy as he states how big a difference it is to him that Lucy is already dead. The way Wordsworth constructs the final two lines of the poem reveals his grief over his loss. “But she is in her grave, and, oh, / The difference to me!”; (11-12). His use of the interjection “oh”; provides a more dramatic way of expressing his grief. The last line reveals how important Lucy is to him that despite her inexistence to others, her death matters very much to him.

The theme of death and love is developed in the poems by the use of Wordsworth effective construction of imagery in his poems. He is able to convey his message clearly because of the use of simple words and easy to understand lines. His tone is clear to be melancholic because of the words that he used throughout the poem. Clearly, Wordsworth is able to produce a simple yet powerful poem of love and loss with his mastery in giving details and visuals.


  • William Wordsworth “Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems” (1798), ” Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems” (1800), “Poems, in Two Volumes” (1807)
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