I Travelled Among Unknown Men: The Love of Lucy and England

I travelled among unknown men cover image featuring Wordsworth

I Travelled Among Unknown Men is the third poem in the unofficially termed “Lucy” poems in which the poems revolve around a mysterious woman named Lucy. But there’s more in this poem than other “Lucy” poems. Here we also get to see Wordsworth’s love for his country England. A poem about being homesick, realizing the beauty of the place which the person is used to seeing, and the loved ones who live there.

You’ll find the detailed analysis of this poem along with the literary devices, theme, and a common trait found in all the Lucy poems that many have missed. We’ll try to keep it as short and simple as possible. We have divided the poem’s analysis into each stanza with an apt title for them. Take a look at the poem. 

I Travelled Among Unknown Men

I travelled among unknown men,

In lands beyond the sea;

Nor, England! did I know till then

What love I bore to thee.

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!

Nor will I quit thy shore

A second time; for still I seem

To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel

The joy of my desire;

And she I cherished turned her wheel

Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,

The bowers where Lucy played;

And thine too is the last green field

That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.

Realization of love

I travelled among unknown men,

In lands beyond the sea;

Nor, England! did I know till then

What love I bore to thee.

It is not until one experiences the lack of something, he/she knows the worth of that thing. You never know how much space something or someones takes in your heart. It is when you lose it or them and realize the unbearably large empty space left behind in your heart. This stanza is the lyrical expression of that feeling.

Wordsworth had to travel to Germany and that is when he was among unknown men in an unknown place. That is when he realized how beautiful England is. His love for his motherland and the warmth of known faces is what he’s expressing in this stanza. 

A permanent love 

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!

Nor will I quit thy shore

A second time; for still I seem

To love thee more and more.

Those days have passed, turned into the past. Perhaps the poet is speaking about the melancholic dream of coming back to England when he was in a foreign land? This is why he used the term melancholic dream because this combination is sort of an oxymoron. Dreams are sweet, filled with expectations. Unless they are mixed with longing. That makes the dreams sweet yet melancholic. 

Coming back to England was the dream but the time when he kept this dream was melancholic. This is a very human mention that we all have felt at some point in our life. Some point which was dark and unhappy and there was a desire to come out of it and that dream kept you going. Wordsworth is now in the present and says that he loves England more and more now. 

Sweet memories

Among thy mountains did I feel

The joy of my desire;

And she I cherished turned her wheel

Beside an English fire.

This stanza gives us the reasons why Wordsworth is in love with England and notices there are two elements here, the girl which is Lucy, and nature. The mountains which made the poet feel more than what he was, which let him think beyond. And the scene of Lucy working made the place unforgettable. These sweet memories are the reason why this place has so deep connection with Wordsworth. After all, what are we if not the collection of our past, both sweet and sour. 

Till the last breath

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,

The bowers where Lucy played;

And thine too is the last green field

That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.

We get to know more about the importance of England in Wordsworth’s life and why it is difficult for him to leave this place. The most important reason is Lucy and the days she spent here. All the places where she frolicked tells the poet tales of the sweet days. 

For me, the best line in the poem is the first line of this stanza; Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed, The bowers where Lucy played; How Wordsworth uses nature to convey messages is brilliant. This is the place where Wordsworth and Lucy spent their days and nights. But the last two lines take a melancholic turn. 

Wordsworth says that these are also the fields that Lucy saw while drawing her final breath. How can he leave the place where his love spent her last moments? The attachment is unbreakable and perhaps the poet may want to leave the place because of this reason, he just can’t. This concludes the poem. And sadly, the life of Lucy which brings me to the next point. 

I travelled among unknown men poem by William Wordsworth
I Travelled Among Unknown Men poem by William Wordsworth

Lucy in Lucy poem series

One common thing that I have noticed in the entire 5-poem Lucy poem series is all the poems end with the end of Lucy. I’ll provide a link for all the other Lucy poems ( 4 of them here in Wordsrum, so you don’t have to go too far). Take a look at those poems and read the last stanza. They all either end with the end of Lucy with the thought of Lucy’s death. 

Who was Lucy? No one knows and perhaps even Wordsworth doesn’t know about her. Many believe that she was an idea, a piece of fiction created from the fantasy of Wordsworth to represent an amalgamation of woman and nature. Who knows. But one thing we do know is he loved her and he lost her. 

The theme of the poem 

The major theme of this poem is longing. It is realizing latent love that one never felt. Being homesick, missing the little things that he never knew mattered so much. A sense of belonging, a familiarity with the place, and people who know him and who he knows. These are the major themes of the poem. Other themes would be death, loss of loved one, melancholy, nostalgia, etc.

Metaphors and rhyming scheme 

The rhyming scheme of the poem is ABAB and the form is a lyrical ballad. The structure of the poem is quatrain and has four stanzas. There is a decent use of metaphors and other literary devices. Here are some examples;

Metaphors: Lands beyond the sea,  that melancholy dream, turning her wheel, mornings showed, nights concealed, last Lucy’s eyes surveyed. These are all examples of metaphors. 

I Travelled Among Unknown Men is a poem about missing what’s loved by us about being homesick, about the feeling of being in a place where one does not belong. Wordsworth wrote about the feelings we all have felt at some point in our lives. This is what makes his poem so connecting to us, so personal and so real. 

While you are here with us, we’d love with us a little longer. Check these articles that might interest you. These are all the other Lucy poems we’ve written on. 

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