- Winter is long in this climate
- and spring--a matter of a few days
- only,--a flower or two picked
- from mud or from among wet leaves
- or at best against treacherous
- bitterness of wind, and sky shining
- teasingly, then closing in black
- and sudden, with fierce jaws.
- you reminded me of
- the pyramids, our pyramids--
- stript of the polished stone
- that used to guard them!
- you are like Fra Angelico
- at Fiesole, painting on plaster!
- you are like a band of
- young poets that have not learned
- the blessedness of warmth
- (or have forgotten it).
- At any rate--
- I am moved to write poetry
- for the warmth there is in it
- and for the loneliness--
- a poem that shall have you
- in it March.
- the archer king, on horse-back,
- in blue and yellow enamel!
- with drawn bow--facing lions
- standing on their hind legs,
- fangs bared! his shafts
- bristling in their necks!
- Sacred bulls--dragons
- in embossed brickwork
- marching--in four tiers--
- along the sacred way to
- Nebuchadnezzar's throne hall!
- They shine in the sun,
- they that have been marching--
- marching under the dust of
- ten thousand dirt years.
- they are coming into bloom again!
- See them!
- marching still, bared by
- the storms from my calender
- --winds that blow back the sand!
- winds that enfilade dirt!
- winds that by strange craft
- have whipt up a black army
- that by pick and shovel
- bare a procession to
- the god, Marduk!
- Natives cursing and digging
- for pay unearth dragons with
- upright tails and sacred bulls
- in four tiers--
- lining the way to an old altar!
- Natives digging at old walls--
- digging me warmth--digging me sweet loneliness
- high enamelled walls.
- My second spring--
- passed in a monastery
- with plaster walls--in Fiesole
- on the hill above 'Florence.
- My second spring--painted
- a virgin--in a blue aureole
- sitting on a three-legged stool,
- arms crossed--
- she is intently serious,
- and still
- watching an angel
- with colored wings
- half kneeling before her--
- and smiling--the angel's eyes
- holding the eyes of Mary
- as a snake's hold a bird's.
- On the ground there are flowers,
- trees are in leaf.
- But! now for the battle!
- Now for murder--now for the real thing!
- My third springtime is approaching!
- lean, serious as a virgin,
- seeking, seeking the flowers of March.
- flowers nowhere to be found,
- they twine among the bare branches
- in insatiable eagerness--
- they whirl up the snow
- seeking under it--
- they--the winds--snakelike
- roar among yellow reeds
- seeking flowers--flowers.
- I spring among them
- seeking one flower
- in which to warm myself!
- I deride with all the ridicule
- of misery--
- my own starved misery.
- Counter-cutting winds
- strike against me
- refreshing their fury!
- Come, good, cold fellows!
- Have we no flowers?
- Defy then with even more
- desperation than ever--being
- lean and frozen!
- But though you are lean and frozen--
- think of the blue bulls of Babylon.
- Fling yourselves upon
- their empty roses--
- cut savagely!
- think of the painted monastery
- at Fiesole.
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
March is a part of Williams' Sour Grapes (1921) collection.The following excerpt is Williams's 1920 Kora in Hell. Kora was one of Williams's favorite creations because it revealed as he said "myself to me." I thought it was of a novel interest because it shows a frank, uncompromising attitude about his work. He and Dolittle were at first classmates at the University of Pennsylvania introduced by Ezra Pound and later friends.
- Hilda Doolittle before she began to write poetry or at least before she began to show it to anyone would say: "You're not satisfied with me, are you Billy? There's something lacking, isn't there?" When I was with her my feet always seemed to be sticking to the ground while she would be walking on the tips of the grass stems.
Ten years later as assistant editor of the Egoist she refers to my long poem,March, which thanks to her own and her husband's friendly attentions finally appeared there in a purified form:
14 Aug. 1916
I trust you will not hate me for wanting to delete from your poem all the flippancies. The reason I want to do this is that the beautiful lines are so very beautiful--so in the tone and spirit of your Postlude--(which to me stands, a Nike, supreme among your poems). I think there is real beauty--and real beauty is a rare and sacred thing in this generation--in all the pyramid, Ashur-ban-i-pal bits and in the Fiesole and in the wind at the very last.
I don't know what you think but I consider this business of writing a very sacred thing!--I think you have the "spark"--am sure of it, and when you speak direct are a poet. I feel in the hey-ding-ding touch running through your poem a derivative tendency which, to me, is not you--not your very self. It is as if you were ashamed of your Spirit, ashamed of your inspiration!--as if you mocked at your own song. It's very well to mock at yourself--it is a spiritual sin to mock at your inspiration--
Oh well, all this might be very disquieting were it not that "sacred" has lately been discovered to apply to a point of arrest where stabilization has gone on past the time. There is nothing sacred about literature, it is damned from one end to the other. There is nothing in literature but change and change is mockery. I'll write whatever I damn please, whenever I damn please and as I damn please and it'll be good if the authentic spirit of change is on it.
Sources:Center for Bookculture.org
Accessed Sep 30 2001
Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner
Accessed Sep 30 2001