Spring and All
by William Carlos Williams
Section III (lines 16-23) Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
- Now that you’ve had a line or two to get used to spring, here come more new things. The next section tells us that other things are approaching, too.
- "They enter," Williams tells us, but who are they? He only tells us a few things: they’re naked and cold, and, well, they’re entering.
- It’s a little bit of a mystery, and it forces you to guess, to look for clues, and to read more closely. Think of the moment in a movie when new characters show up, and you don’t know anything about them yet. We know that they are different from "sluggish" spring, but we have to wait to learn more.
- Williams could just say who they are from the beginning, but he teases us a little. He wants to make his poems clear, but maybe not always too easy.
- Also, do you see how the image of these plants coming into the world might make us think of human babies being born? This little trick is called personification, and he uses it in a few spots in the poem. It’s one of a lot of ways that he twists together the human and the natural worlds, and suggests that they’re really just aspects of the same thing.
- Oh, yeah, and see how he brings back that cold wind from the fourth line? Nice touch, huh?
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
- Now, things start to pick up speed, and Williams solves our mini-mystery.
- It looks like "they" are the new plants that poke up through the dead leaves, although he never quite comes out and says so.
- Things get clearer, as spring takes hold.
- Do you feel how the mood of the poem changes? After the groggy feeling of winter, things are beginning to thaw, to pop out and change.
- For example, look at the word "quickens." Here, it means "comes back to life," but it also hints at the way the world speeds up in spring. Even the sound of the word is fast and lively, the opposite of the "sluggish" feeling the poem talked about a minute ago.
- Things are about to change, and, when they do, it will move fast.