Literature Study GuidesPoems Of William Wordsworth SelectedStrange Fits Of Passion Have I Known Summary

Poems of William Wordsworth (Selected) | Study Guide

William Wordsworth

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Poems of William Wordsworth (Selected) | "Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known" | Summary



This poem, published in the second (1800) edition of Lyrical Ballads, has seven stanzas of four lines with tight rhyming in an ABAB CDCD pattern The speaker discloses that his love for a girl named Lucy had been so strong that he even imagined her death. He wants to tell her that once, while traveling to be with her at her cottage, he came under the spell of the moon as it traveled along with him and descended over the roof as he approached it. In a kind of trance induced by the emotions of the moment, his acknowledges the fear that she would die. The feelings are so intense that it is not clear who, precisely, the beloved girl is, nor if she is still alive.


The poem has an intense mixture of devotion and dread. The poet's feelings are so full of complex and clashing elements that he mixes them into an ultimately morbid picture of loving someone so much that her absence becomes necessary to imagine, as well as her presence.

Lucy in the poem has lived so close to nature, like a flower in daily bloom, that awareness of her natural mortality must also be faced. It is the moon itself that induces a vision through a kind of dream state the poet calls "Kind Nature's gentlest boon" (or gift). He had invested such passion in her life that perhaps inevitably the realization that all things age, change, and die has to be brought to him as well, through an altered state of consciousness.

The motion of the horse's hoofs has a kind of hypnotizing effect on the speaker, together with the rise and fall of the moon as it disappears over Lucy's cottage. Somewhere in this mixture of the real and the imagined, the ultimately tragic fate of his beloved emerges as a possibility. No matter how intense his love for her may be, they are both creatures of nature and therefore susceptible to the end of life and end of passion. Verbal irony, saying one thing and meaning another, arises in calling his dream of death, imagined or not, "kind." It may be a release and relief from his intense passions, or a morbid trick to heighten the experience of love by shadowing it with death.

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