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William Wordsworth
Complete Poetical Works

LUCY GRAY

OR, SOLITUDE

Written at Goslar in Germany. It was founded on a circumstance
told me by my Sister, of a little girl who, not far from Halifax
in Yorkshire, was bewildered in a snow-storm. Her footsteps were
traced by her parents to the middle of the lock of a canal, and no
other vestige of her, backward or forward, could be traced. The
body however was found in the canal. The way in which the incident
was treated and the spiritualising of the character might furnish
hints for contrasting the imaginative influences which I have
endeavoured to throw over common life with Crabbe's matter of fact
style of treating subjects of the same kind. This is not spoken to
his disparagement, far from it, but to direct the attention of
thoughtful readers, into whose hands these notes may fall, to a
comparison that may both enlarge the circle of their
sensibilities, and tend to produce in them a catholic judgment.

OFT I had heard of Lucy Gray:
And, when I crossed the wild,
I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child.

No mate, no comrade Lucy knew;
She dwelt on a wide moor,
--The sweetest thing that ever grew
Beside a human door!

You yet may spy the fawn at play,
The hare upon the green;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray
Will never more be seen.

"To-night will be a stormy night--
You to the town must go;
And take a lantern, Child, to light
Your mother through the snow."

"That, Father! will I gladly do:
'Tis scarcely afternoon--
The minster-clock has just struck two,
And yonder is the moon!"

At this the Father raised his hook,
And snapped a faggot-band;
He plied his work;--and Lucy took
The lantern in her hand.

Not blither is the mountain roe:
With many a wanton stroke
Her feet disperse the powdery snow,
That rises up like smoke.

The storm came on before its time:
She wandered up and down;
And many a hill did Lucy climb:
But never reached the town.

The wretched parents all that night
Went shouting far and wide;
But there was neither sound nor sight
To serve them for a guide.

At day-break on a hill they stood
That overlooked the moor;
And thence they saw the bridge of wood,
A furlong from their door.

They wept--and, turning homeward, cried,
"In heaven we all shall meet;"
--When in the snow the mother spied
The print of Lucy's feet.

Then downwards from the steep hill's edge
They tracked the footmarks small;
And through the broken hawthorn hedge,
And by the long stone-wall;

And then an open field they crossed:
The marks were still the same;
They tracked them on, nor ever lost;
And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank
Those footmarks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank;
And further there were none!

--Yet some maintain that to this day
She is a living child;
That you may see sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonesome wild.

O'er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And sings a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

1799.