James Guimond: On "The Descent of Winter"

Williams often constructed his poems upon metaphors, analogies, and contrasts which stressed the formal relationships possible between nature and the human or artificial. Some of the first examples of these poems appear in "The Descent of Winter."


What a red

and yellow and white

mirror to the sun, round

and petaled

is this she holds?

with a red face

all in black

and grey hair

sticking out

from under the bonnet brim

The poem's structure is simple and effective. Two bare, unexplained images are juxtaposed to make us aware of their unexpected similarity.

In other poems Williams stressed the contrasts between the human and the natural which could be created by the same bare, unexplained juxtapositions of images. The poem entitled "10/21" in "The Descent of Winter," for example, dramatically contrasts the destructive power of a fire burning up trash with a conservative human emotion, pity for the old. The verbs signifying the natures of the two forces, the natural and the emotional, are balanced in the poem to define one another. The flames stream and wave; they are streaked and stained with purple and flamepoints; the smoke "continues eastward--." These verbs describing the fire are all intransitive and express violent destruction. Those describing the old persons are passive, or verbs of being, expressing negations or static experiences.

From The Art of William Carlos Williams: A Discovery and Possession of America. Copyright © 1968 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.


Title James Guimond: On "The Descent of Winter" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author James Guimond Criticism Target William Carlos Williams
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 18 Oct 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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