I said nothing at all about what Williams intended in this poem, only about his poetics and what he wished to do as an American poet rejecting Eliot's notion of tradition. My comments on the poem are on the words, the pattern of words, and the blocking of sections. As I wrote later, Diana is absolutely right on later Williams, but this is not later Williams: it is during the early stage she described. It is only to the observer that the bull "looks godlike" or can be imagined as "care-free" or wise. None of that is what the bull can be known or imagined to experience anymore than what milk means to you. Imagine yourself as the chained and impotent bull and it might produce a very different impression, one Williams keeps introducing. He often does that--presents a perspective that other details subvert. It would be hard to imagine anything more different from Four Quartets, and what Williams did affirm is no less valuable, just very different. Ironically, you assume you know what Eliot "aspired to" in Four Quartets" and to take that seriously, but whatever Williams "aspired to" is not significant. What is the difference? Many people share Williams's intensely sensual celebration of life and are not attracted to detachment. For Williams, what he wrote was quintessentially "American" and celebrated a new poetics. As Carrol said, detachment is not what Williams wrote about. Frankly, finding such "magnificence" in a chained and ringed (painful if the animal moves and used to control it) is very strange. But what is at stake here is not simply these details. It is the claim that poetry is anything at all an individual reader thinks about when reading it. Poets have starved to write because they wanted to say or create or reveal something, not because they were just providing lexical stimuli for the readers' prior ideas. All that would need is a random flipping through a dictionary (Not a bad idea either but different.) Cheers, Nancy >>> Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> 08/30/07 2:23 PM >>> Thanks for your many painstaking observations, Diana. What I was pointing out to was something writ large in every word, every line, of this poem. Whether or not Williams willed it, it matters little to me. When a reader comes across a poem at random (and that's how I came it across), he doesn't go about asking if it has to be read in a specific way because the poet intended it to be read that way. I was just sharing a point of view -- a certain correspondence here in terms of the state of "the still point" of detachment from both pain (of "ringed, haltered, chained to a drag") and pleasure ("the sweet grass) which the bull exemplified. To me the poem can be taken as a profound comment on the human situation (metaphorically though). The bull is chained to a drag, a work he has perforce to carry out. However, he shows no signs of misery or pain -- he looks "godlike" in his demeanor. And, in the next stanza, he is not taken in either by the pleasing aspects of life ("the sweet grass") -- he takes them rather gingerly for what they are -- quite a wise and insightful bull ;-) In the next stanza, his carefree attitude is likened to a god on the Olympus -- looking at the world with "half-closed eyes" (reminds me of Yeats' philosophic Chinamen in 'Lapis Lazuli'). The poet then talks of his inner solidity that relates to his outward shine. This hardness of substance, however, is not impervious to a sense of harmony/music playing through it. The single most important word that qualifies the bull (and the poet allows it full space) is "milkless". To me, milk is an emblem of the primordial bond that bonds a mother and a child -- perhaps one of the most potent of human bonds -- by being "milkless", the bull transcends this bondage -- hence he is "godlike" in his detached loneliness, and in his majesty. The last stanza presents the magnificence (and wisdom?) of an aged bull, his "eyes matted / with hyacinthine curls". This is the state of being idolized by the Bhagavad Gita, and this is the state Eliot's 'Four Quartets' aspires to. If William Carlos Williams was unaware of this aspect of the bull he painted, one can only pity him. Cheers! CR Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote: Dear CR and all, Response to several points. First, Ken is right that a poet may do much more than they intend or something different. Second, a poem, nonetheless, is not simply what readers read. Williams spent years and books insisting on poetry that presented the thing in itself. It was a deliberate and life-long poetic theory, not an aspect of one poem. A poem comprises an author, a reader, a thing represented, and a representation. (See a full discussion of this in the section on "representation" in CRITICAL TERMS FOR LITERARY STUDY. It's extremely insightful on this and helps explain why students often imagine the poem is anything they think it is, even if there is no basis for their notions in the text.) So it is no more possible to exclude the author and/or the text itself than to exclude the reader. A reader is constrained by what is on the page, and the author put it on the page. It is not simply a matter of intention; it is a matter of the representation itself. Williams's poem is no more just whatever you feel when you read it than "The Waste Land" is a poem about the serenity of cows in a pasture in Vermont or the annoyance of cow pats. It just doesn't have any Vermont cows or cow pats in it. So your first premise is simply not accurate; responses are not the totality of meaning and often they are not based in the text. And what you call here your reading is not a reading but what you first described as a reminder evoked by comparison. Given that, Denise Levertov, in an essay on Williams ("The Ideas in the Things") pointed out that Williams never said there were no ideas, only that they were in the things. He deliberately and consciously avoided symbolic methods and ideas not part of what he saw as the American new way of seeing physical reality. Her point was that words carry meanings whether one intends them or not. So the word "hyacinthine," for example, may--in itself--evoke Greek ideals or even Eliot's hyacinths. But that is to take it out of context. The bull is in captivity. He is "ringed, haltered, chained/ to a drag." He has to nozzle grass to pass the time away. He is milkless. The hyacinthine curls are matted between his horns and his eyes as if his natural volence and activity is closed off from his ability to see anything. This is not an depiction of detachment or serenity but of a profound imposed imprisonment. Bulls do not chain themselves or choose to do nothing. A reading that looks at all the words and the bull itself rather than a pre-imagined ideal cannot avoid that. And the latter would not fit with anything about all the other intensely physical and sensual imagery of Williams that Carrol noted. Given the tendency of many on this list to insist on the reading of Eliot through Eliot, and especially as a "lifetime's effort" it seems odd that Williams is also to be read through Eliot when he detested Eliot and all Eliot had done to poetry. Third, Williams's reaction to Eliot was to the very notion of a long European history as source that the notion of "detachment" and Eliot's learning in Eastern religion would have created. Here is Williams on Eliot: "When I was halfway through the prologue [to KORA IN HELL], 'Prufrock' appeared. I had a violent feeling that Eliot had betrayed what I believed in. He was looking backward; I was looking forward. He was a conformist, with wit, learning which I did not possess. he knew French, Latin, Arabic, god knows what. I was interested in that. But I felt he had rejected America and I refused to be rejected and so my reaction was violent. I realized the responsibility I must accept. I knew he would influence all subsequent American poets and take them out of my sphere. I had envisaged a new form of poetic composition, a form for the future. It was a shock to me that he was so trememdously successful." Here is Kenner on Williams on Eliot: "After a third of a century had passed, the mention of Eliot could still stir up in him a blind indignation." Since Kenner wrote on both of them and admired both, his comparisons are useful and interesting. You may wonder why I am writing all this. It is because to treat Williams's poem--or the work of any poet--as nothing but a touchstone for one's own feelings and to dismiss everything the author DOES bring to their creation is to dishonor creativity. It does matter what--in a broad and intense sense--Williams was trying to do, just as it matters that Eliot could find no poetry to work from except the French Symbolists and the Elizabethans when he began. To ignore his symbolist method would be to dismiss not one reader but an entire transformation in poetic history. And, for Ken, no--I am not having a double standard. I read Eliot's own theory and recognize his own view of what he did and why and from what sources. To disagree with much of what he thought is not to deny that he thought it or to refuse recognition of, for example, the fact that he wrote symbolist poems. Nancy And this to Nancy Gish: a?poem is?there?for?a reader to read? and share?their response with other readers -- there were many a student/teacher?who?reciprocated my reading of it?-- that was in a university in India many years ago -- and I'm sure there will be many?elsewhere who will partake of my reading, irrespective of what William Carlos?Williams thought of his poetry. As WH Auden?said?(In Memory of WB Yeats) :? ? Now he is scattered among a hundred cities And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, To find his happiness in another kind of wood And be punished under a foreign code of conscience. The words of a dead man Are modified in the guts of the living. ? And this to Carrol : it's a compliment to a poem's versatility (of meaning)?if it?evokes different?things?in different readers, and seems conformist to some, non-conformist to others. ? And thanks, dear Gunnar, for sharing your excitement. 'The Bull' became an instant?hit with me too. ? And not?least, thanks a lot, Ken, for your cogent remark, "what an author thinks he or she is doing may or may not be on the mark". ? Cheers! ? CR Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story. Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games. ________________________________________________________________________ Email and AIM finally together. You've gotta check out free AOL Mail! - http://mail.aol.com --------------------------------- Need a vacation? Get great deals to amazing places on Yahoo! Travel.