No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.
His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation
to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must
set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. 
                 ~ T.S. Eliot, 'Tradition and the Individual Talent'
The dead will not lie still,
And things throw light on things,
And all the stones have wings.
                ~Theodore Roethke, 'The Small'
ringed, haltered, chained
to a drag
the bull is godlike
               ~ William Carlos Williams, 'The Bull'
                                        who best
 Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best
               ~ John Milton, 'On His Blindness'

Gunnar Jauch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Am 30.08.2007 um 20:23 schrieb Chokh Raj:

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.

Dear CR,

perhaps WCW chose the bull as a reminder that Zeus turned himself into a bull in order to woo his beloved Europe, who finally rode on his back.
 But even without that possible reference the poem is strikingly powerful.



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