Study Guide

Strange fits of passion have I known Quotes

  • Death

    Stanza 1

    And all the while my eyes I kept
    On the descending moon.
    […] When down behind the cottage roof,
    At once, the bright moon dropped. (19-24)


    The moon continues, then concludes, its downward trajectory. In such a short poem, Wordsworth's focus on this detail gives us a clue as to the symbolic importance of the sinking moon. It fixates our speaker and suggests the ultimate risk of loving Lucy: what if she dies?

    I to her cottage bent my way,
    Beneath an evening-moon. (7-8)

    It seems odd that the speaker is making a trip to his beloved at night. As a result, this typically happy reunion is cloaked in darkness. We're off to a grim start.

    The sinking moon to Lucy's cot
    Came near, and nearer still. (15-16)

    The moon is an important and complex symbol here. (See "Symbols" for more on that importance and complexity.) As the speaker gets nearer to his destination, climbing higher on toward Lucy's cottage, the moon gets lower. It's as though the sinking moon symbolizes the pitfalls of being in love, such as the fear of death.

    What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a Lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!" (25-28)

    The first time we read this, we admit, this stanza caught us by surprise. Why would a poem about visiting your honey end with thoughts of death? We thought it over, though, and realized that this is kind of Wordsworth's whole point. There's always a price to be paid for love, and this case is no exception. The speaker's suffering in this final stanza is simply the cost of falling in love. If he didn't care about Lucy, her death wouldn't be anything to worry about.

  • Man and the Natural World

    When she I loved looked every day
    Fresh as a rose in June, (5-6)

    Aw, isn't this simile sweet? It's also the first of many references to nature as a way to describe the speaker's feelings about Lucy. Initially, everything is as fresh as a rose in June, but that moon does seem to be losing altitude.

    Upon the moon I fixed my eye,
    All over the wide lea; (9-10)

    The moon is a powerful natural symbol in this poem. (Check out "Symbols" for more.) When it hits the speaker's eye, well, that's amore. It seems to guide him on his journey to Lucy's cabin. At the same time, though, it's sinking lower and lower in the sky. Its descent seems to reflect the mixed blessing of love, which brings both happiness and terror to our speaker.

    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. (13-16)

    The moon seems almost to menace Lucy's cottage in these lines. It's no longer a beacon to guide the speaker to his beloved; it's like some kind of natural Death Star, getting nearer and nearer to the object of his desire.

    In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
    Kind Nature's gentlest boon! (17-18)

    In these lines, the speaker describes his feelings of love for Lucy as a kind of dream. Moreover, he says that this feeling is one of the greatest gifts that Nature can bestow. To follow this logic, Nature itself is the ultimate source of love. Few Romantic writers would disagree with that idea.

    When down behind the cottage roof,
    At once, the bright moon dropped. (24-25)

    Well, Nature giveth, and Nature taketh away. The moon leads the speaker on through the poem as he makes his way closer to Lucy's cottage, but it disappears just as he arrives. Not coincidentally, that's when his panic attack hits him, and he fears for Lucy's death.

  • Love

    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. (1-4)

    The speaker starts off by letting us know that he's only going to talk to lovers about his experience. Of course, then he just goes right ahead with all the sordid details—without bothering to ask for a background check from any of his readers. Do you think that he's just assuming that every reader who encounters this poem would have loved someone in their life? If so, how safe do you think that assumption is?

    When she I loved looked every day
    Fresh as a rose in June, (5-6)

    This simile gives us a glimpse of our speaker's love for Lucy. It seems pure, sweet, and simple. It also sets the stage for his journey to the cottage, as well as the horrifying thought at the poem's end. He's on his way to connect with his beloved, but there's a price to be paid for that kind of connection: fear of losing it.

    With quickening pace my horse drew nigh
    Those paths so dear to me. (11-12)

    Even the road to Lucy's cottage is "dear" to the speaker. It seems like he's made this trip many times before—happily so, since his loved one is waiting for him at the end of the journey.

    In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
    Kind Nature's gentlest boon! (17-18)

    Love, according to the speaker, is both a sweet dream and the greatest gift ("gentlest boon") that Nature can give us. He's a huge fan of love, in other words—even if it does result in moments of paralyzing fear from time to time.

    What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a Lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!" (25-28)

    The final stanza of the poem throws us a pretty nasty curveball. While the steadily-sinking moon has lent a growing sense of foreboding to the poem, these last lines really seem to come out of left field. Upon reflection, though, they seem both troubling and fitting. After all, the price to loving someone is the fear of losing them.