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Winter Trees Analysis

Author: poem of William Carlos Williams Type: poem Views: 3

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All the complicated details

of the attiring and

the disattiring are completed!

A liquid moon

moves gently among

the long branches.

Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.


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

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This poem describes trees that have lost their leaves and gone dormant in preparation for winter. The imagery is stark but beautiful and and peaceful. It is a portrait that stirs readers' emotions for several reasons, not the least of which is the contrast between life (buds) and death (freezing temperatures and leafless branches) and light (the glow of the moon) and darkness (night). These are the great tensions of life, but here they seem to stand in peaceful balance or coexistence (but with the promise that, though darkness and death currently dominate, light and life will reemerge -- the night passes and the trees are only sleeping, with their buds "prepared against" winter).
However, the connection or similarities between the trees and people are unmistakable. Williams personifies the trees (they have dressed and undressed
and they have "wisely" prepared for winter), which suggests a life process similar to humans -- and approach from which readers can draw inspiration and insight. Specifically, the "attiring" and "disattiring" and preparing the "buds" suggests child-rearing: parents begin as caregivers but progress toward preparing their children for the inevitable challenges and harsh realities of life (the "sure winter")-- at least "wise" parents do (trees are beautiful symbols for the wise -- deep-rooted, enduring, stately, always reaching upward).
More generally, the trees facing winter could simply be seen as people who have lived their lives well and are nearing death (winter). They are done with the complexities of assuming, fulfilling, and shedding different roles ("attiring" and "disattiring") and are being engulfed by the light from a "world" beyond ours ("the liquid moon"). They have wisely prepared their buds (their offspring or perhaps the enduring kernels of life within their souls) for the certain winter (death). Wise people are not in denial about death, nor do they seek to avoid its inevitability; they prepare for it -- with the hope of another sunrise, and even more, another spring.
Despite the power of Williams' imagery to evoke such thoughts about one's own life, this poem remains a stirring portrait of trees on a late Autumn night. The emotions -- the melancholy, the peace, the hope -- it stirs are deep and in many ways beyond words. Though there are clear parallels with human existence, the poem's total effect is something more basic -- simply a glimpse of the wondrous cycle of life and the profound connections and experience we humans share with all living things with which we share this planet.

| Posted on 2009-04-20 | by a guest

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