“The surge of the blue / mottled clouds driven”4 provides us with a sense of motion, time and space as well as the imagery of the ocean with all its hidden life. However, this idea of life is again contradicted with the description of the empty, barren landscape around them, filled with “broad, muddy fields / brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen / patches of standing water / the scattering of tall trees. ”5 With this kind of imagery, we get the impression of a lifeless, unwelcoming landscape that is only reinforced as the poem progresses for more than half its length in the same vein of thought.
Even spring itself, usually personified as bursting with life into the winter scene, is here described with more reality, “lifeless in appearance, sluggish / dazed spring approaches. ”6 With spring introduced in such a lifeless-seeming fashion at the poem’s midway point, Williams concentrates his efforts on explaining his true vision of the season. He refers to a mysterious “They” in line 16 that eventually emerges as speaking of the trees, bushes, vines and grasses that have already been mentioned in terms of dead foliage.
However, now they are entering the “new world naked, / cold, uncertain of all / save that they enter. ”7 The grass slowly becomes the “stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf” as the growing things begin to quicken in the warming temperatures, “the profound change / has come upon them; rooted they / grip down and begin to awaken. ”8 Through his careful imagery, Williams presents a view of spring that is often overlooked, the slow, deep awakening that occurs far beneath the surface as the growing things begin to pull their nutrients out of the ground again, stretching up their leaves, taking on new definition and beginning a new life cycle.
This method evokes an appreciation for the mysterious forces that work beyond our understanding and encourage us to look a little closer at the world around us and our connection to it, which emerges as a common theme throughout much of Williams’s poetry. Although quite short in length, Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is profoundly eloquent in its depiction of an average scene in everyday rural life.
As he says, “So much depends / upon” these simple scenes of life that everyone takes so for granted that they are no longer even seen, much less appreciated for their importance to our daily needs and comforts. The poem consists of only a single sentence, broken up into eight lines of four two-line verses, making a simple statement an act of poetry unequalled by most.
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