Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams
Queen Anne's Lace
Her body is not so white
anemone petals nor so smooth--nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force
; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand's span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain
a tiny purple blemish
. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone
Queen Anne's lace is wild carrot or cow parsley, topped by small white flowers in clusters and the anemone in line two is also called an anemony
. "It has feathery foliage but a woody root. The tiny white flowers bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster (called an umbel
) until they wither, when the cluster becomes nest-shaped (whence another of its names, bird's nest
)." The plant was formerly used in folk medicine as a diuretic and a stimulant.
Using a cacophony of images upon a green landscape, it is either or in Williams mind to lead the reader into a flora filled landscape colored purple and white awash in sunned yellow caresses. As the sun-poet permeates his presence in the air to take the wild carroted field by force Each part / is a blossom under his touch
, purpling her whiteness until desires are met in the depths of her being or there would be no of her being /
stem one by one, each to its end for the reader it may mean that nothingness lies for the flower if she does not experience the light, she must give up fidelity to survive; that by receiving the saturation of the sun there is an exchange for a freedom from dilution with whiteness which can only be a purity beyond fruition.
He uses many paradoxes in the imaginative process where touch leads to blossom and to the at odds sense empty-fullness of the field, the tiny purple blemish becomes a blossom, the field is full of white flowers yet empty, the single stem is a cluster. Singleness is plurality, fullness is emptiness, depletion is replenishment at the end of his poetical strokes of light. Perhaps he is trying to diagnose and describe feminine desire which he may think as ultimately unrepresentable through language. Only with a language in their very gestures between the sun and the field, Williams and the nothing may be a feminine creative capacity; that is feminine desire as a force overtaking the field while remaining empty to discourse-a void in language but what language continually yearns for.
The original text of Queen-Ann's-Lace first appeared in Sour Grapes: a Book of Poems by William Carlos Williams in 1921. One of four flower studies Daisy, Primrose, Queen Anne's Lace, and Great Mullen, the composition date is unknown. Composed of unrhyming rhythmic lines and predominantly naturalist in view William's posied indulgences of bodily appetites is metaphor on a sensual scale. By taking the on the tone of a restrained, dignified voice he combines the still life and the landscape. He once remarked that, It is love that lies at the end of a petal, and I think he has expressed a form of that idea very well here.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.:
Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: