The Lucy Poems are a series of poems written by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. Because Wordsworth often reordered his poems for new editions of his work, and because they were never formally labelled as a group by Wordsworth, membership of the cycle is a matter for debate. The verses known as the Lucy Poems originally comprised three poems written in late 1798 and published in his Lyrical Ballads in 1800. The poems were all untitled but are known by their first lines:
The first two mention an adult women called Lucy
by name; the third does not, but has similar concerns with love and grief and the identical ballad stanza
form to "Strange fits of passion".
Other poems in the Lyrical Ballads mention a Lucy, but are not usually considered part of the sequence: Lucy Gray is somewhat different in subject, describing the death of a child. In contrast "Three years she grew in sun and shower", also about the death of a child, is counted as a Lucy Poem.
In 1802 Wordsworth sought to have "I travelled among unknown men" (which also mentions a Lucy) added to the Lyrical Ballads following "A slumber", but a printer's error meant it was left out. In the 1815 edition, "I travelled" was finally included with the first two, but "Three years" and "A slumber" were printed in a different section.
A cycle of Lucy poems was commonly grouped by Wordsworth's contemporaries and published together by the Victorians. The group established by the mid-nineteenth century comprised the following (with "A slumber" sometimes omitted):
However, many modern experts believe it is misleading to group these poems in this way. Critics such as Hugh Sykes-Davies and Mark Jones believe that Wordsworth did not himself ever group the poems together, and did not intend them to form a single cycle. Rather, he constantly re-ordered his poems in different editions of his verse, and the idea of Lucy Poems as a unified work is an invention that owes nothing to the poet himself.
Other theories hold that the poems relate to the marriage of Lucy Fortescue to George Lyttelton, a British member of parliament who wrote a monody to her after her early death in 1747 (an idea proposed by H. J. Jackson), or that the poems' air of guilt refers to Wordsworth's alleged incestuous relationship with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth (suggested by Charles Rosen but perhaps not seriously held by him.)