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To Waken An Old Lady Analysis

Author: poem of William Carlos Williams Type: poem Views: 8

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Old age is

a flight of small

cheeping birds


bare trees

above a snow glaze.

Gaining and failing

they are buffeted

by a dark wind—

But what?

On harsh weedstalks

the flock has rested—

the snow

is covered with broken

seed husks

and the wind tempered

with a shrill

piping of plenty.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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I agree with the previous analysis; however, it should be noted that "olfactory" refers to smell, and thus the imagery should be described as auditory instead.

| Posted on 2013-11-05 | by a guest

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The rhythm of this poem lies in the author's utilization of run-on lines, lines in which the sense of the line hurries into the next line, as well as the occasional use of approximate rhyme. Lines 1-6, though separated structurally, together form one flowing thought. This structure in which Williams writes creates the illusion of thought, as if the composition of this poem is the product of random reflection. The rhythm of the poem is interrupted by line ten, which simultaneously serves as a shift in the poem, transitioning from the description of old age, a tumultuous struggle-filled flight, to the eventual resignation of death. Line nine contains a dash, which creates a grammatical pause, and therefore emphasizes the question "But what?" Because this question follows a distinct pause, it has an even greater haunting effect. It demonstrates a pause in the speaker's thought, pondering the nature of this "dark wind," the conclusion of old age. Approximate rhyme is used occasionally throughout the poem, as seen in lines four and seven, with the words failing and skimming, as well as lines eight and twelve with the words rested and buffeted. The speaker of this poem is, it seems, most likely either the woman herself, or the poet observing her realization of the inevitability of death. This makes the poem even more personal and relatable, for it is perhaps told from the perspective of someone who is experiencing and pondering the nature of old age, establishing credibility of the descriptions.
The predominant literary device Williams employs is imagery and metaphors. Visionary imagery of birds "...skimming bare trees above a snow glaze..." creates a somber and sorrowful tone. The "bare trees," "snow glaze," "dark wind," "broken seedhusks," and "shrill piping" creates a sense of hopelessness and death. The poem outlines an old woman's realization or "awakening" to the inevitability of her existence. The " flight of small cheeping birds" is a metaphor for old age, which is "gaining and failing" in its journey, as it is assailed by the prospect of death, represented by the "dark wind." The olfactory imagery of "cheeping birds" and the "shrill piping of plenty" contrasts the faint hope possessed by few prior to death with the harsh cries of "plenty," of all who realize that they too will die and that despite their efforts, it is inevitable.
Although this poem is fluid and tranquil in structure and form, it is extremely depressing. I like it primarily due to its vividness in imagery. The poem is truly an experience. It evokes the image of a pathetic group of faintly cheeping birds, struggling against the wind, "skimming bare trees" as it inches closer and closer to death. The format of the poem eases reading and understanding, with few interruptions in each complete thought. Although the subject and imagery is dark, the sound of the language in this poem is truly beautiful. Though the denotation of "piping of plenty" and "buffeted by a dark wind" are not exactly positive, the sound of these words are awesome and create a soothing rhythm to the poem, despite the unsettling subject.

| Posted on 2010-02-04 | by a guest

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