William Carlos Williams: Poems

William Carlos Williams: Poems Analysis

William Carlos Williams' poems each take on different subjects and meanings:

The Dark Day

Immediately in the opening line, the reader becomes aware that The Dark Day mentioned in the title is so bleak because of 'a three-day-long rain from the east.' The compound, hyphenated adverbial adjective 'three-day-long,' reveals that the darkness perhaps lasts not only for one day, but the specific events of this poem are one moment in time. This emphasizes the real, narrative effect of this poem. The repetition of 'patter,' in the triplet, 'patter, patter, patter' is onomatopoeic, allowing the reader to envision each raindrop as it lands. It's alliterative nature also highlights the repetitive nature of the rain, which does not seem to ever cease.

The personification of the rain in its ability to talk, 'an interminable talking, talking of no consequence,' creates a conversation that is pointless and hounds the speaker. As the reader imagines someone incessantly talking in their ear, about something that ultimately has no consequence to them, they can relate to the claustrophobic tone of the poem, as the speaker is isolated by the weather. In fact, the only other human characters in this poem are 'a few passers-by, drawn in upon themselves,' that, 'hurry from one place to another.' The description of these characters as 'drawn in upon themselves,' directly following the single-word, polysyllabic sentence, 'Seclusion,' really underlines the loneliness of this poem, created heavily by the dark nature of the weather, not necessarily a physical darkness.

Right in the middle of the poem, the monosyllabic adjective, 'warm,' stands alone, a complete contrast and juxtaposition to the harsh weather conditions in the rest of the poem. Perhaps this is a comment on how even the tiny pleasantries in hard times are not always significant enough to make a massive difference.


This poem says more about the condition of people, rather than the season of Autumn itself, with the only hint of this time of year being, 'the heavy leaves.' Poems about Autumn usually reveal bountiful descriptions of color and nature, whilst Williams seems to comment on society's effect on the natural environment. The graphic imagery of 'an open grave,' may refer to digging for construction of 'the new road,' but possibly has double connotations, revealing a harsh reality for wildlife as their habitat is destroyed to build this road. The sombre tone created by the imagery of death and mourning is contrasted with the verb 'celebrates.' It causes an unexpected turn in both the poems mood and its narrative, as the 'stand of people,' associated with lining a solemn grave, now appear to be celebrating the activity going on, making it unlikely to be such an obvious death as first expected. This allows the reader to consider the implications for nature, which are often overlooked in this way.

The juxtaposiong adjectives, 'new,' describing the road and 'old,' describing the man, denotes a break in tradition or the way things always were this comment on the upcoming modernization of society also emphasises the depletion of natural resources and habitat, as the the man, 'reaps a basketful of matted grass,' in order to feed his goats. The verb, 'reaps,' has Biblical connotations, implying a need to sow in order to reap. This may reveal the tedency of man to take what isn't theirs, for example in performing 'the cut and fill/ for the new road.' The adjective, 'matted,' also shows a denegration of natural resources, and they deteriorate in quality, as well as quantity.

Finally, the fact that the old man is 'on his knees,' also shows the humiliation and disregard of younger, modernizing generations, for those that have come before them, a problem it seems may stem to the generations after them.

Flowers by the Sea

To begin with, the opening lines of this poem set the scene, at the edge of a cliff or at least on the coast by the sea. The suggestion that this landscape may be a coastal cliff is hinted at in the phrase, 'sharp pasture's edge.' The adjective 'sharp,' reveals a landscape of corners and drops, with undulating levels. It is also quite a harsh adjective, associated with pain or cutting. However, the rest of the poem has a much more gentle tone and movement, a lulling pattern much like the ocean's natural waves, described in 'sways peacefully upon its plantlike stem.'

The whole poem presents a natural, unedited scene of pastoral nature, emphasized by the use of the noun 'pasture's,' instead of simply field. It creates a vivid sense of life and luscious green grass to nourish the imagery of flowers to come. The fertile landscape of these pastures seems an odd choice to paint beside a 'salt ocean,' yet the two main images of tis poem, the flowers and the sea, as denoted in the title, seem to complement each other.

The flowers, 'chicory and daisies,' are described as 'tied,' and then immediately preceding as 'released,' highlighting the freedom within this poem further, as to experience restriction first amplifies the sense of freedom. The description of these flowers as 'colour,' in this extended metaphor shows flashes of blue from the chicory and yellow and white from the daisies. They sprinkle the very essence and variety of color into the air and amongst the green grass of the pastures. However, the poet also describes them metaphorically as 'the movement - or the shape perhaps - of restlessness.' The use of the punctuation of dashes here makes the poet's thoughts seem restless and gives a different shape to the poem's physical appearance. For the flowers to embody the very shape of restlessness, then the link between restlessness and freedom must be formed. 'Restlessness' can sometimes have negative connotations, denoting a disturbance of peace, but here it simply means a lack of restriction, as the flowers are not tied down.

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