The Lucy poems refer to a series of five ballads about an idealized young woman named Lucy composed by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) between 1798 and 1801. All but one were first published during 1800 in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads. Although Wordsworth did not compose the poems as a strict sequence, they are often collected and published together. Four out of the five poems identify Lucy by name. The fifth, “A slumber did my spirit steal,” mentions only a Lucy-like “she.” Editors usually place it last in the series.
Whether Lucy was based on a real woman or was a figment of the poet's imagination has long been a matter of debate among scholars. Generally reticent about the poems, Wordsworth never revealed the details of her origin or identity. To scholars and historians of Wordsworth, Lucy remains a mystery because she does not correspond to any one woman in Wordsworth’s life. Most critics agree that she is essentially a literary device upon whom he could project his many passions as a quintessentially Romantic, meditate and reflect. Thus, Lucy takes on a variety of roles: She is the object of unrequited love, ever out of reach. She is the poet’s muse, arriving to provide a surge of inspiration only to depart all too soon. She is the personification of nature in all its beauty, wildness, and perfection. She is fantasy and dream, an imagined ideal who cannot exist in the real world. In the series, Wordsworth sought to write unaffected English verse infused with abstract ideals of beauty, nature, love, longing and death.