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Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams

The Widow's Lament in Springtime

    Sorrow is my own yard
    where the new grass
    flames as it has flamed
    often before but not
    with the cold fire
    that closes round me this year.
    Thirtyfive years
    I lived with my husband.
    The plumtree is white today
    with masses of flowers.
    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
    for though they were my joy
    formerly, today I notice them
    and turn away forgetting.
    Today my son told me
    that in the meadows,
    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.

Reality is encountered reaching a decisive point. The persona here is a widow and the reader can plainly gather she has lost her husband of thirty five years. She experiences an overwhelming of whiteness in the blossoming trees. The flaming "cold fire" predicates as paradox against the new green grass and foreshadows a life gone drab against the bright yellows and reds in her courtyard. The whiteness smothers the flame physically and emotionally and words progress; "formerly" and "before" to "this year" and "today," all bring into focus the immediacy of her loss. Emotional and descriptive, Williams positions metaphors with the care of an artist where the discerning can readily watch the sacramental white flowerings parallel the blankness of her sorrow and a foundering death wish.

Simple and poignant scholars have regarded The Widow's Lament in Springtime as:

  • "A white that rouses the desire to merge with it and get lost in it is experienced as an extreme: Oppositions fuse, ecstasy leads to oblivion and annihilation, the color of joy turns - as in China - into the color of mourning."

    Peter Halter

  • "'(c)rowds are white,' the sea is dark: immersion in either gives relief, a union with One, but halts the cyclic process of renewal."

    James E. Breslin

  • "White is a symbol of a world from which all colors as material attributes have disappeared. The world is too far above us for its structure to touch our souls. There comes a great silence which materially represented is like a cold, indestructible wall going on into the infinite. White, therefore, acts upon our psyche as a great, absolute silence, like the pauses in music that temporarily break the melody.... White has the appeal of nothingness that is before birth"

    Wassily Kandinsky

A noder whispered: Thanks for noding the "Sour Grapes" stuff. I sometimes wonder what a life without tears would be like but it only makes me sad....curses to WCW for making me sob with the widow.


On "The Widow's Lament in Springtime":

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved.

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