Treasure Island

William Carlos Williams

(17 September 1883 – 4 March 1963 / New Jersey)

A Sort of a Song


Let the snake wait under
his weed
and the writing
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
sleepless.
-- through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
the rocks.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Max A (8/21/2014 12:37:00 AM)

    The first half of this poem seems to be about words themselves, explained metaphorically with the snake. Williams is expressing his desire to see a new sort of language emerge in poetry, a language that is just as accurate, effective, (sharp to strike) and determined (quiet to wait, / sleepless) as a serpent hunting its prey.

    But furthermore, especially in the second stanza, Williams seems to be referring to a sort of lingual existentialism: no ideas but in things is the most famous line from this poem for a reason. With this simple phrase, Williams beautifully reiterates the entire basis of existentialism: there is no essence without there first being existence (that is, there are no ideas of things without the things themselves existing first) . This is why the people and the stones must be reconciled. Not only the philosophy, but the LANGUAGE of our times as well, has apparently been corrupted by the illusion of an essence. According to Williams, a person can never be just a person - instead, he will always be himself, a singularity, an existence who will always prove more beautiful than the idea of a person (that is, any person) . Interestingly, Williams understands literature as a way of expressing singularity, a way of illustrating existence itself (by no means a simple individuality, which always expresses itself in the form of lonely predicates, or in other words the very ideas to which Williams refers) , hence his poems' frequent use of detailed of imagery.

    The final line is a metaphor that concludes the poem perfectly: his vibrant saxifrage will subvert and split all of the supposed concreteness and coldness of modern language.

    -Max A. (Report) Reply

  • Max A (8/21/2014 12:35:00 AM)

    The first half of this poem seems to be about words themselves, explained metaphorically with the snake. Williams is expressing his desire to see a new sort of language emerge in poetry, a language that is just as accurate, effective, (sharp to strike) and determined (quiet to wait, / sleepless) as a serpent hunting its prey.

    But furthermore, especially in the second stanza, Williams seems to be referring to a sort of lingual existentialism: no ideas but in things is the most famous line from this poem for a reason. With this simple phrase, Williams beautifully reiterates the entire basis of existentialism: there is no essence without there first being existence (that is, there are no ideas of things without the things themselves existing first) . This is why the people and the stones must be reconciled. Not only the philosophy, but the LANGUAGE of our times as well, has apparently been corrupted by the illusion of an essence. According to Williams, a person can never be just a person - instead, he will always be himself, a singularity, an existence who will always prove more beautiful than the idea of a person (that is, any person) . Interestingly, Williams understands literature as a way of expressing singularity, a way of illustrating existence itself (by no means a simple individuality, which always expresses itself in the form of lonely predicates, or in other words the very ideas to which Williams refers) , hence his poems' frequent use of detailed of imagery.

    The final line is a metaphor that concludes the poem perfectly: his vibrant saxifrage will subvert and split all of the supposed concreteness and coldness of modern language.

    -Max A. (Report) Reply

  • Christopher Manuel Garc�a Vega (12/31/2009 12:26:00 AM)

    if you try to give a lesson, do it by an example. there's no better way to show how to do things than by showing it really... the first image of this poem seems to be some sort of denial of a previous example, as there is a piece of a advice that tells the reader to 'let the snake wait under his weed', as though it were something bad to disturbd the snake, and, what does the snake remind us of? treachery, death, perhaps, hypocrisy... 'let the snake wait under his weed' and make the flower break the stone, as though you wanted to penetrate a heart, as though you wanted to maculate the sun, with a word... (Report) Reply

  • Gwilym Williams (7/5/2005 11:48:00 AM)

    Even the best poets only really hit the mark perhaps one time in five. This is one of those times. (Report) Reply

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