This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I have eaten
- This line tells us, quite simply, that the speaker has eaten. Good to know.
- Well, what have you eaten, we think. Breakfast? Lunch? Too much? Or, judging by the smallness of this poem, too little?
- This line sets us up for the short lines of this poem. There's no punctuation in the entire poem, so the line breaks help provide its rhythm. These short lines make it so that there's a lot of enjambment in this poem. Enjambment is the term for when one thought is spread over multiple lines or stanzas. Just think about jamming the lines back together to get a complete thought.
- And be sure to check out our "Sound Check" and "Form and Meter" sections to learn more about the line breaks in this poem.
- What's important to know now, though, is that though these short lines may seem choppy, when read well, they are smooth as plum skin. Also, they make us think about every word carefully—if these few words get a whole line to themselves, they must be important!
- A-ha! This line tells us what the speaker ate—plums. Specific plums, at that—"the" plums, not "some" plums.
- Again, this line is super-short. That gives us time to think about exactly what plums are like—red (well, actually, plum-colored), round, sweet, juicy. In a word: delectable.
- In fact, we'd rather like to eat some plums right now. If you've got one on hand, go for it—then you'll know exactly what this line is talking about.
- Oh, and aside from the title, this is the first S sound we get in the poem. Keep an eye out for more, and be sure to check out our "Sound Check" section for more on what those S's are doing in the poem? Something sneaky, we're sure.
that were in
- This line, we might think at first glance, tells us nothing. Since when do three little words that don't really mean anything by themselves get their own entire line?
- Since our speaker gave one to them, that's when. But, when you think about it, this line does tell us something about the plums he's eaten. They were inside something, but aren't there anymore, because, you know, now they're in his belly. Yum.
- This line builds up the significance of the simplicity of this poem. With line breaks like this, we'd think the speaker was talking about a life or death matter. Every break is a dramatic pause.
- But no, he's just talking about where the plums were. Maybe, this line seems to say, simple things like that are important after all.
- This line reveals the location of our plums—the icebox.
- Now, if you were born in the last few decades, you may never have heard of an "icebox," so we'll help with a little bit of a history lesson.
- An "icebox" is exactly what it sounds like: a box with ice in it. It's what people used before refrigerators came about (like a cooler, but one you use all the time). Imagine, actually having to use ice to keep things cold!
- But the word "icebox" was also used to refer to early refrigerators, which were becoming widespread just about when this poem was published. So we're going to guess that this icebox is probably not just a box with ice, but more like a modern refrigerator. Maybe a little something like this?
- No matter what this icebox looked like, now we know that these plums were being kept fresh and cold. They were put away, out of sight, not just left on the counter. So the speaker had to open up the icebox to find them and eat them. The nerve.