One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
Written in hendecasyllabic meter (11 syllables per line) and unrhymed verse, the poem seems to be an easy read. It uses words so ordinary any reader could go through it without having to stop for the meaning. The persona tells of his experience of looking down into wells and being ridiculed all the time by people who could arguably be his enemies, or his friends who know better than he. "Always wrong to the light," the persona never sees what he is there, in the first place, for - the truth. Instead, he sees his own reflection, looking like a god - an allusion to Narcissus who looks down into a pool of water and falls in love with himself - with a crown of ferns, much like the crown of olives worn by poets and winners of the Olympian games of ancient Greece, amidst a background of clouds. In one of those visits to the well, though, the persona notices "a something white, uncertain," but only for a very brief moment. For once, something is revealed to the persona. But as quickly as that "whiteness" comes, it disappears, being rebuked by a force unknown to him.
Isn't it Ironic?
Though written in a very light and simple manner, the poem comes across as something very profound, laden with meaning through its incongruities. The persona, wanting to see something, often goes to the well and looks down at the water to see it. This certain search below the water's surface can be compared to man's search beneath the human experience for meaning, for certainty.
But the more man looks for this meaning, this certainty, the more it becomes obscure for him, because he looks for it in the wrong way, just like the persona who is always "wrong to the light," and therefore can not see what he is looking for. He is then taunted for his seemingly useless search. But he continues to look at the well,...