, , ,

There are series of three poems from Al Que Quiere! (1917) which concern the same matter of the persons perhaps most likely neglected as objects of poetry. This attention would not be interesting in and of itself today: looking for outcasts, portraying the outcast is sure sign of artistic integrity.

Two of the poems are entitled “Pastoral”, their companion is “Apology”.  The first pastoral begins:

When I was younger

it was plain to me

I must make something of myself


The patter is five – five – eight. The longer line exhausts the idea and makes a bit of closure. What then is the idea: ambition: which ambition is going to contrasted with the wisdom of age:


Older now

I walk back streets


How the opposite of ambition. He is not in a place to be seen, here is in backstreets.


Admiring the houses

Of the very poor:


He then lists out the items he sees:


roof out of line with sides

the yards cluttered

with old chicken wire, ashes,

furniture gone wrong;

the fences and outhouses

built of barrel-staves

and parts of boxes, all,

if I am fortunate

smeared a bluish green

that properly weathered

pleases me best

of all colors.  


Before we come to the conclusion, we are left with a bit of a question: Is he ironic? Not ironic in finding the items visually interesting. There is something visually interesting in decay. Any number of photographers have used such things as either the subject or the backdrop for their images.


But the irony of saying such a color “pleases” him. There is a strange tone in the pastoral subject of poetry were the poet idealizes another’s poverty as a place of serenity and tranquill beauty – away from whatever ambition and hurry has ceased the poet and his world. But we never see the poet volunteer to become poor. (Dickens, to his credit may idealize some poor people, but he does not romanticize poverty per se.)


Is Williams merely finding beauty where it can be found – is it a realization that his ambition is of little good except for beauty? Is there a mocking of the “pastoral”?



He ends with


            No one

will believe this

of vast importance to the nation.


What is of no importance? His vision of beauty? The fact that he likes the color? The lives of the poor?


We know that he has gotten something wrong – his early ambition has given way to looking at the poor and seeking beauty in their ramshackle existence.


The next poem, “Apology” may help understand the first (assuming he holds a consistent position).