The little sparrows
hop ingenuously
about the pavement
with sharp voices
over those things
that interest them.
But we who are wiser
shut ourselves in
on either hand
and no one knows
whether we think good
or evil.

the old man who goes about
gathering dog-lime
walks in the gutter
without looking up
and his tread
is more majestic than
that of the Episcopal minister
approaching the pulpit
of a Sunday.
These things
astonish me beyond words.

Analysis, meaning and summary of William Carlos Williams's poem Pastoral


  1. usha chandrasekaran says:

    The poet uses words sparingly.But the effect of these words on the reader is quite significant.The poet creates a pen picture when he describes the houses of the poor.When the poet was young he wanted to make a mark in his life as a doctor and a poet.Now as he is capturing details about the houses of the poor people his past concern in life is no more important.He is in a frame of mind to accept poverty.The poet does not describe poverty using descriptive phrases.With the brush in his hand he creates little pictures.The roof of a house out of line with the ceiling is a stroke in painting.Similarly we almost see the picture of the out houses built of barrrelstaves.The last lines are replete with irony.The Nation being vast ,cold and impersonal may not pay any attention to the poverty of these people.The poet’s use of language adds power to the theme.

  2. Heather M. Crabbe says:

    This poem is an answer to the notion that only the wealthy have “made something” of their lives. As the poem opens, the speaker mentions it being “plain” to him that he must make something of his life as a young boy. This said, the speaker then proceeds to “. . .walk back streets/admiring the houses of the very poor”. The choice of the word “admiring” makes it clear that these people’s accomplishments are not worhthless, although many in society may feel they did not “make something” of themselves. Continuing the admiration, the speaker notes that the “bluish green” color which weathered property obtains after exposure of the elements “pleases [him] best of all colors”. The final comment: “No one/ will believe this/ of vast import to the nation” implies the opposite–that it is indeed centrally important. The hard work and accomplishments of the lower classes are given a great deal of importance. One can only assume that the speaker admires the accomplishments, much as he admires the houses and the “bluish green” of the property. Williams has created a poem which blows apart the idea of what “accomplishments” are, and shows that “the very poor”, too, are worthwhile and admirable members of the nation.

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