The poem begins with the personified Nature noticing Lucy at three years old. Nature thinks she is the most beautiful thing on earth, and promises to take her to make "A Lady of [her] own":
Three years she grew in sun and shower,
Then Nature said, "A lovelier flower
On earth was never sown;
This Child I to myself will take;
She shall be mine, and I will make
A Lady of my own.
Nature then expounds on what it means to be Nature's lady for several stanzas. Nature promises to make Lucy into a part of nature itself. She will be a part of the rocks, the earth, the heaven, the glades, the mountain springs, the clouds, the trees, and the storms. In addition, Lucy will fully enjoy nature and understand it. It will be as if they are in constant communication:
Myself will to my darling be
Both law and impulse: and with me
The Girl, in rock and plain,
In earth and heaven, in glade and bower,
Shall feel an overseeing power
To kindle or restrain.
She shall be sportive as the fawn
That wild with glee across the lawn,
Or up the mountain springs;
And her's shall be the breathing balm,
And her's the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.
The floating clouds their state shall lend
To her; for her the willow bend;
Nor shall she fail to see
Even in the motions of the Storm
Grace that shall mould the Maiden's form
By silent sympathy.
The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.
And vital feelings of delight
Shall rear her form to stately height,
Her virgin bosom swell;
Such thoughts to Lucy I will give
While she and I together live
Here in this happy dell.
In the last stanza Nature declares that her work is done: she has fulfilled her promise to Lucy, letting her grow into a mature woman (as promised in the sixth stanza). The speaker declares, "How soon my Lucy's race was run!" When she dies, she leaves the speaker a calm scene to enjoy along with the beautiful memory of her:
Thus Nature spake--The work was done--
How soon my Lucy's race was run!
She died, and left to me
This heath, this calm, and quiet scene;
The memory of what has been,
And never more will be.
"Three years she grew" is made up of seven six-line stanzas that each have an aabccb rhyme scheme. This poem is one of a set usually called the "Lucy Poems." The identity of Lucy has never been discovered.
Nature takes on an interesting role in this poem--she is beautiful and giving, and yet ultimately dictates the circumstances of Lucy's death. The poem becomes a beautiful elegy written to a woman who has died and who Wordsworth admired not only for her beauty, but also for her connection to nature, which Wordsworth felt was the highest possible achievement.
Also worthy of note is the fact that the speaker does not speak until the final stanza. For the first six stanzas he simply describes the declarations and promises of Nature. It is only in the end that the reader finally learns what happened to Lucy (she died as soon as she reached maturity) and why the speaker is writing the poem (out of grief).