Lucy Poems: Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known

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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.
When she I loved looked every day
Fresh as a rose in June,
I to her cottage bent my way,
Beneath an evening-moon.
Upon the moon I fixed my eye,
All over the wide lea;
With quickening pace my horse drew nigh
Those paths so dear to me.
And now we reached the orchard-plot;
And, as we climbed the hill,
The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot
Came near, and nearer still.
In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
Kind Nature’s gentlest boon!
And all the while my eyes I kept
On the descending moon.
My horse moved on; hoof after hoof
He raised, and never stopped;
When down behind the cottage-roof,
At once, the bright moon dropped.
What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
Into a lover’s head!
‘O mercy !’ to myself I cried, If Lucy should be dead !’


      The poem Strange Fits of Passion Have I known, is one of the Lucy Poems and was written in Germany in 1799, and published in 1800. Lucy’s identification is a mystery and various theories have been put forward. However, her identity is quite irrelevant to the understanding of or appreciating the “Lucy poems”.


      In the poem, Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known, the lover experiences strange emotions which only another lover can understand and appreciate. The poet tells of one such experience. The girl he loved looked young and fresh as a rose in June. He used to visit her cottage every evening on horseback. Once he was on his way, looking at the moon shining over the wide meadow, and making his horse go faster towards Lucy’s cottage. He was in a pleasant dreaming mood while looking fixedly at the moon, which was slowly setting over the horizon. All at once, as he neared the cottage, the moon set. It filled the lover’s mind with apprehension. All kinds of foolish thoughts swam into his head and he feared that Lucy might have died.


      The poem Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known, describes a feeling which lovers might experience—in the midst of sheer joy and contentment comes the creeping sensation that it might not last and the beloved may die or be separated from him in some way or other. We need not make any conjecture about the identity of Lucy—it does not affect our appreciation of the poem. Professor Harper has said that “an actual experience of love and sorrow quite definite and personal was the origin of these poems.” Maybe the “Lucy poems” were based on some actual experience; however, it does not matter much.

      The poem is a beautiful lyric and communicates the poet’s feelings effectively. We also get a sense of movement as the horse with its rider draws with quickening pace nearer and nearer Lucy’s cottage, passing the orchard lot and climbing the hill as the moon made its journey across the sky. We get the lover’s feeling of eagerness to meet his beloved, even as he is pleasantly wrapped up in “sweet dream’s.”

      The moon in the sky is invested with a symbolism by Wordsworth. The disappearance of the moon behind the cottage is seized upon by the lover as a symbol of his own anxiety. It crystallizes his thoughts into the fear that his Lucy may be dead. The idea that natural phenomena sympathize with human emotions, and provide as it were a field of symbolism for them, is strong in Wordsworth’s poetry. The moon, here suddenly and dramatically extinguished, is usually connected with joy and creative life in Wordsworth’s poetry. The other “Lucy poems” show that the lover’s foreboding is confirmed. Lucy, indeed, dies at a young age.

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