The Widow’s Lament in Springtime
THESIS: WILLIAMS CONTRASTS A
WOMAN’S SADNESS OVER THE LOSS OF
HER HUSBAND WITH THE BEAUTIFUL
NEW SCENERY OF SPRINGTIME IN
ORDER TO COMMUNICATE THE FULL
EXTENT OF THE WOMAN’S SORROW.
CONTEXT: PUBLISHED IN THIRD
COLLECTION OF POETRY, SOUR GRAPES
(1921), SHORTLY AFTER WWI
Overall Interpretation
The speaker/persona is a woman.
 The woman has lost her husband:
“Thirtyfive years/I lived with my husband” (7-8).
 All of the images of springtime magnify her sadness:
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they [the flowers on the cherry branches and bushes]
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting. (15-19)
 Now she wants to die:
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them. (25-28)
Language/
Stylistic
Techniques:
Juxtaposition,
Imagery, & Mood
Williams juxtaposes
negative feelings and
positive images to
emphasize the
sorrowful mood.
Main springtime
images in the poem:
-yard/grass
-plumtree/flowers
-cherry tree
branches/blossoms
-bushes
-meadows
-trees of white flowers
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames… (1-3)
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they (11-16)
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them. (22-28)
Language: Significant Diction
Williams includes carefully chosen words that are loaded with
meaning and employs repetition for emphasis.
 “lament” and “springtime”: end vs. beginning (title)
 “flames,” “flamed,” and “cold fire”: flame of love (3, 5)
 Only family members mention are “husband” and “son”:
patriarchy (8, 20)
 “white” repeated 2x: surrender (9, 24)

Contrasts with “yellow” and “red” (14)
 “masses of flowers” repeated 2x: “flowers” repeated 4x:
funeral mass/service (10-11)
 “today” repeated 2x: focus is on the present rather than past
 “and fall into”, “and sink into” (incremental repetition):
unmistakable meaning (27-28)
Structure & Sound
Williams’ structure reinforces the depth and complexity of the
woman’s grief.
 Extensive use of enjambment: free-flowing expression, stream-of-
consciousness thought, fragmented ideas




“Thirtyfive years”: emphasizes length of time (7)
“formerly, today I notice them”: abrupt change (18)
One long sentence with complicated syntax: essence of the poem, describes the
woman’s transition (11-19)
Awkward syntax “trees of white flowers”: highlights flowers (24)
 Similar line lengths: consistent rhythm (stream-of-consciousness)
 Most lines have 4-8 syllables
 One line has 9 syllables:


“formerly, today I notice them”: emphasizes change (18)
One line has 3 syllables:

“to go there”: emphasizes death (26)
Activity
 Work in partners:
 Role 1: You are the widow. State the last full sentence from the
poem in the tone of voice that you believe the widow would use.
 Role 2: You are yourself. Respond to the widow by telling her
whatever you feel she needs to hear.
 Roles 1 & 2: Continue this dialogue as realistically as possible
until you run out of things to say.
 Discussion question: How did this activity help you
understand or relate to the poem more?
Conclusion
BASED ON THE WAY WILLIAMS ENDS
THE POEM, IT IS APPARENT THAT THE
WIDOW BELIEVES HER LIFE IS OVER,
THERE WILL BE NO NEW BEGINNING
FOR HER, AND SHE WISHES FOR
DEATH.
Download

The Widow`s Lament in Springtime