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‘Spring and All’ by William Carlos Williams is a seven-stanza poem that is propelled by its straightforward yet striking pictures. Williams wanted to give the reader a clear picture of the real world, therefore the historical setting in which it was written is crucial. The promise of a brand-new, more peaceful future was just beginning to dawn on the world as World War I was coming to a conclusion. At that time, it was written.
About the poet
American poet, author, and physician William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was a prominent figure in modernism and impressionism. Williams had an extensive career as a doctor, practicing both pediatrics and general medicine in addition to writing.
He was connected to Passaic General Hospital, where from 1924 till his passing he was in charge of pediatrics. A commemorative plaque that reads “We walk the wards that Williams walked” was erected at the hospital, which is now called St. Mary’s General Hospital, as a memorial to Williams.
By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
The poem’s first stanza introduces a trail or road that leads to a “contagious hospital.” The fact that Williams was a practicing physician makes his decision to choose a “contagious hospital” all the more tragic. The speaker is standing next to a walkway that is covered with a sky that is “surg[ing]” with “blue/mottled clouds.”
The abrupt appearance of these clouds, seemingly pushed by a chilly northeast wind, results in a sight that is neither tranquil nor especially ominous. A length of “muddy field” and weeds, some of which stand and others of which have “fallen” to the ground, are among the sights that can be seen beyond the road. This heightens the solemnity of the situation and the uneasy atmosphere that has already been established.
patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees
The next stanza, which is only two lines long, mentions “patches of standing water” in addition to the gloomy fields. The excess water from the rain has not been absorbed by the earth. There is nowhere for it to flee to. The fact that there are some trees in the distance is mentioned in the sentence after that. They are tall and “scatter[ed]” among the pools of water.
All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines—
The poem’s five-line third stanza does little to improve the tone. The picture, which consists of dead vegetation and muddy fields, is further elaborated in the poems that follow. The “twiggy/stuff of bushes” are purple and forked plants that are present alongside the road.
The “dead, brown leaves” that have fallen and are now positioned beneath the twigs are the only trace of what they once were. These plants are now “leafless vines” rather than “bushes.” Williams is depicting a landscape that might be found throughout Europe at the time this song was written, one that is tarnished, decaying, and devoid of many forms.
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches—
A two-line couplet in the poem’s fourth stanza emphasizes the scene’s lifelessness. The country is “lifeless in appearance,” according to the speaker, and there is no sign of what it once was or may have been. The speaker describes “spring” as steadily arriving and quietly making its way to the road and its environs in the second line of the verse, signaling a shift in tone from mournful to cautiously hopeful.
They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind—
The poem’s fifth stanza outlines the upcoming developments. The speaker has modified how he refers to his surroundings; he now refers to the plants as “They” and says that they are entering a “new world.”
This is an area that has been lost for a very long time and is just now beginning to recover. The plants are “naked” when they enter their new environment and have no idea what to anticipate. The alteration first seems little, yet the same “cold…wind” still blows.
Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined— It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
The poem’s sixth stanza imagines what the world may be like “tomorrow”. With the “grass” shifting and the “stiff curl of wild carrot leaf” changing, it implies that things will change gradually. The coming spring will affect all plants and creatures, and the “objects” of the earth will be defined one by one until their distinct form is apparent. The story is under pressure from the poet, yet the final words don’t really change much as a result.
But now the stark dignity of entrance—Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken
The world does not move quickly. The plants’ “stark dignity” nevertheless prevails for the time being. There is no abrupt alteration or metamorphosis that quickly takes them over. It won’t happen immediately, but it will arrive and it will be powerful. The plants will eventually become firmly “rooted” and robust enough to “grip down” in the ground and “begin to awaken” to a world devoid of violence.