Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower by William Wordsworth: Summary and AnalysisWilliam Wordsworth's poem Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, is a lyrical elegy on the untimely demise of Lucy. This poem is also known as 'The Education of Nature', and is considered one of the Lucy poems. Lucy poems are written about an ideal female who is sometimes symbolized as nature, for whom the speaker feels great affection. It was written in the year of 1798 in collaboration with S.T. Coleridge and was published in 1800 in the Lyrical Ballads anthology.
In this poem Wordsworth personified Nature. He points out the education of nature, and the great influence nature can exercise on human life. Nature has the power to impart education better than all the sages can. The experiment of nature's education has to be tried on Lucy by Nature itself. Nature thinks that she is the most beautiful thing on earth. Nature takes her to make her ‘a lady of her own’. So, Lucy lived in close communion with the objects of nature, the rocks, the earth, the glades, the heaven, the mountains, the clouds, the trees and the storms. But, before she could be a perfect woman, she was snatched away by the cruel hands of death.
The personified nature speaks of Lucy in the first stanza. Nature says, 'A lovelier flower on earth was never sown' than Lucy, and decides to take the child and make her 'A Lady of my own'. In the second stanza this idea is elaborated. Nature will be with the child both 'law and impulse' and have the power to 'kindle or restrain'. The use of words like 'rock', 'plain', 'earth', 'glade', 'bower' all serve to emphasize Lucy's closeness to nature.
The third stanza emphasizes her vital, spontaneous energy and also her equally spontaneous calm and peace. She will have closeness to all nature, ‘The floating clouds their state shall lends To her ' - and will respond to all the natural beauty around her, as stanza five makes clear: 'The stars of midnight shall be dear/To her.’ She will be filled by 'vital' feelings as she grows.
The final stanza is a contrast and shows, poignantly, the feelings of the lover on Lucy's death— or total merging with nature. But the lover accepts the cyclical pattern of things; he is left with ‘This health, this calm and quiet scene' and the memory of Lucy.
The short poem profoundly teaches us the universal truth of the nature of the life, that is, we are from nature, we sustain by the nature, we have to return to nature and there is no loss of human life after death. It is a loss only to the living. This big but bitter truth must be accepted. Nature is personified in this poem. Lucy is not only a particular person, but also the representative of all organic living beings. Lucy was to be educated by nature as nature dreamt of making her the perfect lady. The poet believes that if a child is given freedom to play in the lap of nature, he or she will be a better person in life.
"Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower “is about the poet’s love to a pure young girl and the loss of the beloved one, as his beloved (Lucy) belongs to nature, her return to nature is her death. The separation made by death, though painful to the living one, it is rewarding to the dead one as he or she returns to where he/she really belongs to. The poem is narrated by nature herself and compares Lucy to a beautiful flower. She claims the flower and wants to make her mature lady of nature upon whom she showers her greatest benefits of grace and beauty. Nature reveals the method of the process of the complex unity of living being while making her almost perfect lady. In the poem the process is one of opposing polarities, of a dialectic from which the living complexity arises:
My self will to my darling be
Both law and impulse and with me
The Girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.
The whole passage shows a pattern of antitheses, between 'law and impulse', 'rock and plain', 'earth and heaven', 'glade and bower' and 'kindle' and 'restrain'. These opposing principles are the base of our life. Wordsworth articulates his sense of curiosity at the complex interrelationships between the permanent and fluctuating laws of nature, and the magical intricacies which they produce, that not only the dancing rivulets, but also such phenomena as beautiful young women. Lucy is not passively molded by nature, but she is given all the necessary thoughts of growth.
The reversal of expectations of the nature and the sudden death of Lucy gives a heartbreaking ending to the poem. The beautiful and exciting life has its predictable result: the death. This is not only a lament over the death of Lucy but a truth of the condition of all human life. Though all the powers of nature combine in complex ways to create a human being, finally it is doomed by nature's law to death. The last line is silent, which brings a rare clarity of perception where the lover without making any complaint states that there is nothing more than a memory.
This poem easily delivers a universal truth about human life, a very common truth of death that we live with since our birth but yet we fail to recognize.
This poem can be interpreted as the celebration as the marriage of nature and Lucy at the end. When the physical body of Lucy died, she merges with nature. Her worldly lover, the poet or the speaker, laments for the death and mourned knowing that she will never be back. She will be with nature for ever and ever. So, in this sense, this poem is an elegiac for the human lover and epithalamic (a song sung in marriage) for the nature as she is united with Lucy for the lifelong. Nature is given an interesting role here. At first she seems beautiful and giving but, after a while she dictates the human conditions and takes back Lucy.
This poem has seven stanzas, each containing six lines having an aabccb rhyme scheme. In these short poems, the language is simple, yet intense and moving. The most striking fact is that the speaker in the poem does not speak until the final stanza. Only at the end of the poetry, the speaker let us know why he is writing the poem and what happened to Lucy. Most of the lines are difficult to interpret and language is ambiguous. In some line the diction is simple, but the ideas are difficult to cater.
This poem mourns the loss of a beloved, evoking her beauty and intimacy and suggesting a futility and wastefulness in her sudden death. Nature is described simultaneously as the inspiration and mirror of her beauty – through which Wordsworth explores competing conceptions of femininity – and as a rival lover, jealously snatching ‘Lucy’ away before the speaker can have her. The poem concludes in a state of ambivalence regarding nature’s effect on life – imparting both beauty and impermanence.
Nature’s promise in stanza 1 to make Lucy ‘A Lady of my own’. introduces the poem’s discourse on perfect femininity. The rich pastoral imagery of Nature’s speech clearly reflects Wordsworth’s emphasis of naturalness and spontaneity over artifice and ceremony as favourable qualities. The third stanza particularly shows this, celebrating the girl’s freedom and turning ‘wild’ into a verb to suggest an ongoing process of ‘wilding’, offering the girl choice and agency. Yet as indicated by antithesis in ‘kindle and restrain’, the poem also presents a more rigid expectation of female behaviour. Nature promises, ‘hers shall be the silence and the calm / Of mute insensate things’. There is an element of subjection here: likening Lucy to rocks and trees – ‘insensate things’ seems to demote and devalue her as an individual. The lines could be read as darkly prophetic, reminding us of Lucy’s grave in the ‘insensate’ earth. More positively they reflect the elegiac nature of the poem – which evokes an individual of whom ‘silence’ and ‘calm’ may have been character traits without the need for them to be imposed as a model for femininity. Any affirmation of ‘silence’ in women is further countered in stanza 4 where the ‘Storm’ reminds us that Nature, the ultimate expression of Lucy’s persona, in capable of violence and passion as well as calm. If these are features of Lucy’s character too, then they are carried, one might think paradoxically, in ‘Grace’, and communicated in ‘silent sympathy’.
The poem celebrates Nature’s inspiration of human growth and development. More than anything else I feel that this poem expresses wonder and admiration for the flourishing of beauty and personality under the influence of Nature, albeit tempered by an awareness of temporality. A sense of the speaker’s awe, as well as the incredible fecundity of nature, is given in the lines ‘The Girl, in rock and plain, / In earth and heaven, in glade and bower, / Shall feel an overseeing power.’ The accumulating pairs build upon one another and swell like a hymn to Nature, racing towards the rhyme on ‘power’ to suggest exultation (a very Wordsworthian word) and worship. At the same time, the sense of building and accumulation created by the syntax echoes the development and maturing of Lucy described throughout the poem, culminating in the sensuous adoration of ‘Her virgin bosom swell’. One could argue that the girl is objectified and sexualized here, portrayed as a ripening fruit. The tragedy of the end would then be deflated to the frustration of a man’s desire to consume unsatisfied. However this clear delight in the sensual and sexual is only a part of the picture of Lucy developed. She is an intellectual being, whose ‘stately height’ – suggesting nobility but not of the aristocratic kind – is reached by ‘thoughts’. The emphasis of the poem is very much on her agency, ‘hers shall be the breathing balm’, and learning ‘she shall lean her ear / In many a secret place’. The speaker’s wonder is at the profundity, complexity and balance of the sensual and the intellectual in a developing individual.
A tension exists throughout the poem in the speaker’s relation to personified Nature. As the inspiration and legislator of the girl’s development, Nature is in one sense an adopted father. Yet towards the end of the poem the role of Nature seems to be that of the rival suitor, ‘While she and I together live / Here in this happy dull’. The lines carry a suggestive echo of Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to his Lover, implying in some sense that Lucy’s death is a seduction – the earth that raised her has won her back. This is a fascinating conceit at the heart of the poem – the speaker’s ambivalence towards Nature as both provider and rival reflects the role of Nature in a person’s development as both inspiration – the definition of beauty for W. – but also temporality – the force that imposes mortality. It gives a desperate complexity to the haunting line, ‘This heath, this calm and quiet scene’ where all the previously celebrated qualities seem to turn upon the speaker. The heath is both desolate and beautiful, a reflection of the speaker’s inner state. Nature which previously defined beauty is also the image of the rival that won Lucy from him – consequently it retains its beauty but becomes as inhospitable as a ‘heath’. The poem’s final lines remind me of Marvell’s Mower to the Glowworms, another pastoral poem by a rejected lover, ‘she my mind hath so displaced / That I shall never find my home’. Both speakers suggest a desperate rejection of Nature as the frame of a Pastoral poem, finding themselves displaced by a new-found ambivalence to the governing deity of the genre in which they are conceived.
Wordsworth’s Three Years She Grew takes an ambivalent perspective on nature as at once the provider and destroyer of beauty and individuality. The dominant note of the poem, however, is an elegiac awe and ecstatic appreciation of a complex and beautiful individual. It voices a profound affirmation of the way a person’s character can flourish and mature.