poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

July 2, 2008 Paoli, Pennsylvania From the Academy Audio Archive
About this Poem 

Of the poem, Williams said, "I was thinking of Demuth's picture of the sky over the horizon." Despite its simple beginnings, "A Love Song" went through multiple revisions—to the point that Williams sent a second draft to the literary journal Poetry after Ezra Pound had already forwarded an earlier one to the editor.

A Love Song

William Carlos Williams, 1883 - 1963

What have I to say to you
When we shall meet?
I lie here thinking of you.

The stain of love
Is upon the world.
Yellow, yellow, yellow,
It eats into the leaves,
Smears with saffron
The horned branches that lean
Against a smooth purple sky.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

I am alone.
The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.

See me!
My hair is dripping with nectar—
Starlings carry it
On their black wings.
See, at last
My arms and my hands
Are lying idle.

How can I tell
If I shall ever love you again
As I do now?

First published in Poems 1916.

First published in Poems 1916.

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

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

by this poet

The sky has given over 
its bitterness. 
Out of the dark change 
all day long 
rain falls and falls 
as if it would never end. 
Still the snow keeps 
its hold on the ground. 
But water, water 
from a thousand runnels! 
It collects swiftly, 
dappled with black 
cuts a way for itself 
through green ice in the
I will teach you my townspeople
how to perform a funeral--
for you have it over a troop
of artists--
unless one should scour the world--
you have the ground sense necessary.

See! the hearse leads.
I begin with a design for a hearse.
For Christ's sake not black--
nor white either--and not polished!
Let it be
They call me and I go. 
It is a frozen road 
past midnight, a dust 
of snow caught 
in the rigid wheeltracks. 
The door opens. 
I smile, enter and 
shake off the cold. 
Here is a great woman 
on her side in the bed. 
She is sick, 
perhaps vomiting, 
perhaps laboring 
to give birth to 
a tenth child. Joy! Joy!