William Carlos Williams' The Rose - A Symbol of Love

William Carlos Williams' The Rose - A Symbol of Love

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William Carlos Williams' The Rose - A Symbol of Love


William Carlos Williams was a poet and writer who defied norms and constrictions in order to achieve new perspective and enlightenment, especially when it involved the tried and true. He sought to bring new life to old concepts through allowing imagination to shape the form, instead of allowing old ideas to influence our understanding of the subject. This is especially true in the poem "The Rose", which approaches a subject that may induce thoughts of significant others and prom-night disasters, and instead elaborates on the roots of the age-old symbol for love. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what this poem is about, so hopefully something will make sense by the end of this paper.

The poem starts out as a description of the flower that we all have either received, given, longed for, or been cut by. Instantly, there is the feel of conflict in the language that is being used. Abrasive, heavy words that could be used to describe a murder are mixed with other words that seem to convey a sense of hope and spacial energy. The clusters of thought that somehow constitute a complete sentence make the reading somewhat difficult from the very beginning, but it seems to take on a multi-layered personality as the poem plays itself out. Although there is no mention of the thorny stem, words such as 'sharper', 'cutting', and 'edge', instead describe the flower itself. The constant reference to materials that possess qualities different from any rose such as 'metal', 'copper', 'broken plate", and 'steel', serve to indicate that this flower is being seen through a set of eyes that have perhaps been cast and hardened by the capacity for love.

In contrast to the Nine-Inch Nails words, there are several phrases that become rather ethereal in their incantation. "Grooved columns of air", "But if it ends the start has begun", and "penetrates the Milky Way without contact" all seem to place this flower at the very center of nothingness. This contrast brings to mind high quality photography, which can make an image seem to have sharp edges and contrast greatly with its background.

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This effect can also make it seem like the image is in the absolute middle of nowhere. This analogy is also very similar to how somebody may feel after they have lost their girlfriend or boyfriend. To feel cold and vibrant at the same time, along with feeling that you are truly alone is one of the worst feelings that can be experienced. What is interesting about this feeling is the fact that when you most want to die, you feel like you are the most alive.

It is also intriguing that there is a significant amount of duality in the poem. This is exemplified in the definitions of some of the words used. The word 'obsolete' also has the biological definition of being imperfectly developed or atrophied, in addition to meaning gone out of fashion or relevance. Both definitions, although very different, both seemed to make sense. 'Facet' can mean a different aspect to one's personality or the flat surfaces of a gem, which adds to the consistent use of cutting and harsh words. This double meaning lent to the thought that love was being described from two different angles. One of them is the rose being a concept of love in general, while the other could be a symbol for our own souls.

Williams was tremendously interested in art and drawn to the modern art of his era. Modern paintings were becoming more and more abstract, giving the viewer an opportunity to see ordinary things in a very unordinary context. This could enable people to see a lot of different things in one painting. Williams applied this train of thought to his poems as well, exploring not only different ways of viewing subject matter, but also different and experimental ways of conveying the material. In reading "The Rose", a feeling is created moreso than an image, although the entire poem seems to be describing something visually. On one hand, there is the description of the rose itself as a symbol for love in very unordinary ways. Laced into this dialogue, the unorthodox descriptions lead to the feeling that there is a difficult and dark side to love as well. The images of weight, sharpness, and broken plates, mixed with the vast empty space surrounding them puts the reader in a place that is full of despair and longing. The flogged soul is somehow subjected to the most painful aspects of love, but still reaches out with cold, hardened, and sharp petals to set the process of love into motion again and again. No matter how painfully cut by a flower, it is still a common thing to again seek this most precious possession. Renewal of this process comes through coating perception of love or the love inside oneself in more metallic alloys. Although the flower renews itself by drinking the water in the vase, it also takes on the qualities of the vase, which can be either metal or porcelain. This can lend to the analogy that love can make you strong or weak.

The razor edges of these petals and of the form of the flower itself accentuate the definition of this thing called love. Its clarity is a reminder that it can be one of the most important and powerful forces in life. At the same time, this clarity separates love and even oneself from everything else, so that it becomes the only visible object in view. At the edge of these sharp petals lies love itself. It is as if love is what the rose is most willing to give, to the point that it is almost oozing from the very petals. Towards the end of the poem, the rose is reaching out for love with strong steel lines, which dart out into space without ever coming into contact with anything. This hints at not ever finding love, which will make you fragile but will not bruise you. Choose your poison; it sort of sounds like neither option is very tantalizing, although we are all confined to one of the two options.

Overall, there are so many possibilities in which this poem can be read and understood. That is the beauty of art in the fact that it can mean many different things to many people, and therefore becomes limitless in its interpretation. The words chosen and the way in which they are assembled give this poem many different structures. Hopefully, everybody can come up with a different interpretation of this poem, in the same way that we all have a different interpretation of love.
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