Close reading of William Carlos Williams’ ‘The Widow’s Lament in Springtime’
The title of the poem straight away lets us know that Williams is taking on another persona – the voice of the ‘widow’ mentioned. The word ‘lament’ suggests that the poem will be an emotional outpour. Williams convincingly assumes the role of a woman by writing in free verse. This is because free verse allows the speech to sound natural, personal and casual, as if the woman is really telling her story. The colloquial rhythms within the poem match the way a person would speak emotively. Enjambment throughout ensures key phrases stand out in the way they would if someone was speaking them and putting stresses on certain phrases. For example, “thirty-five years” is isolated, emphasising the length of time she was with her husband, and how, like the sentence, that time has been cut short. The enjambment also makes it sound as if she’s breaking off mid-sentence because she is overcome by emotions. By using these techniques, the poem becomes more like a monologue, letting the reader forget that, in fact, Williams is a man and can’t understand the exact pain this woman feels.
A key theme in the poem is space. The widow is stuck between two worlds because she no longer fits in to either. It’s clear that since her husband passed away her domestic life has completely changed. For example, she describes her “grief” and only briefly mentions her son once in passing. The poem discusses how she no longer finds joy in the outside world either. The metaphor, “Sorrow is my own yard” is unusual. A “yard” is associated with nature, new life, and is something we seek to protect. “Sorrow”, on the other hand, is usually associated with death, loss, and grief. This blunt opening indicates that nature is not a comfort to her but rather it intensifies her depression. She uses another metaphor where she imagines “new grass” as “flames”. This fire imagery may simply help to describe the quickness of sprouting grass and spring by likening it to a spreading fire, or has a more sinister undertone suggesting that she feels threatened by nature. The sorrowful tone of the poem juxtaposes its topic of renewal, birth and new life. We know spring isn’t making the speaker happy this year as she says “but not with the...