William Carlos Williams' "The Uses of Poetry"

Updated on October 20, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

William Carlos Williams

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "The Uses of Poetry"

Even though the title is deceptive in that it sounds like an essay title, Williams' "The Uses of Poetry" is a well-crafted Petrarchan sonnet, with the rime scheme ABBA ABCA DED EDE.

(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

The poem sections the octave and sestet into two stanzas each, which give the sonnet an innovative flavor.

This sonnet follows Williams' famous directive for poetry, it communicates its "ideas" through "things." The things of nature supply the verse with colorful, eventful, and pleasant murmurings as the speaker leads the reader to a place which sense-awareness cannot become obtrusive.

The Uses of Poetry

I’ve fond anticipation of a day
O’erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat’s long sway.

For, lest o’ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We’ll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy’s transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.

Reading of "The Uses of Poetry"

Commentary

First Quatrain of Octave: "I've fond anticipation of a day"

The speaker of "The Uses of Poetry" begins by telling his listener that he is looking forward to reading poetry to a lady.

The speaker "anticipates" that on the day he intends to read to the lady that day will be filled with "pure diversion"— nothing serious or troubling is expected to happen that day.

It will be day filled with wine and roses, that is, pure romance. As he reads his "poesy" to the lady, they will be boat riding on a lake, and they will "glide by many a leafy bay"—immersed in nature, where the trees are full of leaves that inspire by the purified romance of the poetry.

Second Quatrain of Octave: "Hid deep in rushes, where at random play"

As the speaker continues to dramatize his description, he asserts that they will be "hid deep in rushes." Their boat will float to a part of the river where the water weeds will hide them as they enjoy the sweet murmurs of the poetry.

They will delight at the "glossy black winged May-flies" and the "hush-throated nestlings" that they will rouse with the boat's movements through the water. The birds and flies will fly away, not molesting the poetry drenched couple but merely charming them with their natural scurry.

First Tercet: "For, lest o'ersaddened by such woes as spring"

Moving to the sestet of the Italian sonnet, the speaker then turns from description of the physical setting of the boat ride to the mental place where all poetry should lead.

The speaker avers that they will not be bothered by the actual physical "woes" that a real boat ride would bring about. Those gnats in reality would not be charming nor delightful.

Frightening birds until they fly away could result in rather unpleasant events, as could other difficulties that might occur: any number of problems might "spring / To rural peace from our meek onward trend."

In order to guard against such calamities, they will simply withdraw from ordinary sense-awareness, and instead engage in mental-awareness, which is far superior.

Second Tercet: "And close the door of sense; then satiate wend"

The speaker and his companion will "close the door of sense" and climb on "poesy's transforming giant wing, / To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend."

The speaker suggests that unlike the aggravations of the natural world, the world of poetry brings satisfactions "whose fruits all anguish mend."

The annoyances of the natural world are obliterated by the superior transforming power of the poetry world.

Brief Bio of Williams

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)