Sour Grapes (1921)
William Carlos Williams


The dayseye hugging the earth
in August, ha! Spring is
gone down in purple,
weeds stand high in the corn,
the rainbeaten furrow
is clotted with sorrel
and crabgrass, the
branch is black under
the heavy mass of the leaves--
The sun is upon a
slender green stem
ribbed lengthwise.
He lies on his back--
it is a woman also--
he regards his former
majesty and
round the yellow center,
split and creviced and done into
minute flowerheads, he sends out
his twenty rays-- a little
and the wind is among them
to grow cool there!

One turns the thing over
in his hand and looks
at it from the rear: brownedged,
green and pointed scales
armor his yellow.
But turn and turn,
the crisp petals remain
brief, translucent, greenfastened,
barely touching at the edges:
blades of limpid seashell.

It's worth a peeking through William Carlos Williams magic window of images in this poem about the rather common and plain flower called a daisy. Many times publishers shied away from William Carlos Williams's hard to label reflections because he wrote with a unique way using a sardonic kind of Pollyannaism at times. However, when I read his Daisy from his Sour Grapes (1921) (one of his four botanical studies. Primrose, Queen Anne's Lace, and Great Mullen) It's so observable through his eyes; here he has been ingeniously minimalist with a fleeting survey of visual devices :
    Spring . . .
    gone down in purple,
    weeds . . .
    high in the corn,
    a clotted furrow
His delicate musings of a close up of the poetical flower:
    One turns the thing over
    in his hand and looks
    at it from the rear: brown edged
    green and pointed scales
    armor his yellow.

The Columbia Encyclopedia explains that "The daisy of literature, the true daisy, is Bellis perennis, called in the United States English daisy. This is a low European plant, cultivated in the United States mostly in the double form, with heads of white, pink, or red flowers. The English daisy, which closes at night, has long been considered the flower of children and of innocence.... Among other plants called daisy, yellow daisy is a synonym for the black-eyed Susan and then there are the seaside daisy and daisy fleabane along with the Michaelmas daisy, for an aster."

Williams frequently displays this worldly composite of ironic optimism and when he does as a reader I am handed the feeling that if I have the patience to wait through trouble, better times will come.


daisy. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001:

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner: