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William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright William Carlos Williams is often said to have been one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement.

On September 17, 1883, William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania, where he met and befriended Ezra Pound.

Pound became a great influence on his writing, and in 1913 arranged for the London publication of Williams’s second collection, The Tempers. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright.

His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970). Williams’s health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey on March 4, 1963.

William Carlos Williams's life greatly affected his work and this poem especially. Williams's mother studied as a painter in Paris. Maybe his mother was his inspiration to write a poem that went along with The Fall of Icarus painting. Williams was always afraid that he would go out of this world and no one would notice. This would explain why he chose to write a poem about The Fall of Icarus painting. The painting itself shows Icarus drowning and no one noticing him. It would be logical to think that he wrote this poem in the way he did because of his fear of leaving this world without leaving a trace.

Williams began work on his own style after realizing that he disagreed with T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound's works. He said they were too European, and he wanted to be something unique. He wanted something that was distinctly American. His grammar is very unique in all of his poems, and considering he has made it in as a Modernist poet, it is logical to assume that he conquered his goals. Punctuation is missing. Sentences are split up and separated into different stanzas. The grammar is much harder to follow. He focused on everyday life and wrote simply about the simply things. His poems are generally short and do not contain many complicated words. This poem is too; short, simple, and to the point. This is his style.

Williams Carlos Williams is famous for his short and simple poems that convey so much meaning. The Landscape of The Fall of Icarus shows many aspects of Modernism. The writer himself affected his poems by trying to become something new and make a new, American style of poetry. His poems differ greatly from other poets of the time. Modernism may converge a large number of writers into one period, but Williams has succeeded in making his poetry stand out amongst them all.

The fall of Icarus is a well-known story from Greek mythology. The unruly (noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline) son of Deadalus: Icarus, escapes from imprisonment with his father by way of extremely fragile, crafted wings. The father warns Icarus that if he gets too close to the sun, the wax holding the wings together will melt and Icarus will no longer be able to fly. Once in flight, Icarus flies too close to the sun, his wings melt, and he falls to his death in the sea. The poem based on this story and the picture to go along with it demonstrates many characteristics from the Modernism period. The author, William Carlos Williams, personifies Modernism with his life and personality. His other works are very similar to his one, and other authors are either similar or completely different.

The story of Icarus is extremely depressing by itself. This poem, accompanied by the picture, just makes it worse. Modernism was marked by an extreme loss of faith, loneliness, and isolation. In the painting and in the poem, it is springtime. The farmers are planting and plowing (cultivating the land with a plough). The new plants are starting to grow and wake from their winter slumber. Near the edge of the sea, there is a splash. It is insignificant (unimportant). No one notices. Icarus is drowning. He is utterly (extremely) alone, and no one notices. This poem makes life appear minuscule (tiny) when compared to the rest of the world. The poem also slightly shows the individuality that a character in a story or poem would generally strive (try/struggle) for during this literature period. It shows this by letting the reader know that everyone in the world is doing their own thing during the time of Icarus's fall, yet this poem focuses in on Icarus alone. When one reads the poem, at first it looks as if it is just a nice day on the farm. Then the reader realizes at the end that Icarus has just drowned.


The type of poem is narrative because it tells a story.  Written in free verse, there are no set stanzas and no distinct rhyme scheme. The poet creates three line stanzas that include enjambments (the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line of verse into the next line without a pause).  There is no punctuation or capitalization.

Changing with the turn of events, the tone of the poem begins with joy and happiness until the realization that Icarus is going to die. Then, the reader feels the more gloomy and depressing reality of death. Thematically, the poem concerns the lack of awareness of the troubles of others when a person’s life is going well. The pain and tragedy that one person faces may go unnoticed to the rest of the world.  

The poem describes the surrounding natural world and the entire spectacle of the time of year. A farmer is plowing his fields when Icarus falls. The scene is filled with life.  No one pays any attention to the falling boy. As the reader gets further and further into the story, the reader joins Icarus as he falls from the sky and comes closer to his death. The sun was hot and melted the wax-wings. There was a splash. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. Williams employed a clever way of inserting with a splash the sad, quiet death of Icarus.


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