To Waken an Old Lady

The poem To Waken an Old Lady ideally looks at the effects of growing old. In a bid to deliver the message of the poem, the author uses various interesting tools. As I read the poem, I was interested in the manner in which the author employs literary devices in passing across the message. Other aspects such as language, form and content are also important in the poem. The content of the poem is interesting as the author narrows down to the concept of old age.

One of the most interesting literary devices used in the poem is the rhythm employed. The poem is replete with run-on lines. A run-on line is a line whose message extends to be expressed in the subsequent line.

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For example, although lines 1-6 are different lines, the message being communicated in these lines is interconnected. There is also the use of approximate rhyme in some instances. The author of the poem creates a structure that gives the reader thoughts that are removed from reality. This makes the poem appear as if it is reflective of something that happened in the past.

The rhythm disappears in line ten which acts as a transition from describing old age to describing the setting in of death. There is a hyphen in line nine which implies that there is a halt in the thoughts of the author. The author takes time to think about the nature of the so called ‘dark wind’. Approximate rhyme appears in various lines of the poem such as line 4 and 7 where we have the words ‘skimming and failing’. There is also use of words like buffeted and rested in lines 8 and 12 (Rath, 2003).

Another important literary device used in this poem is the use of metaphors and imagery. The images of birds which are described to be ‘skimming bare trees above a snow gaze’ present a tone full of sorrow (All poetry, n.d).

Words like ‘bare trees’, ‘dark wind’ and ‘shrill piping’ are a representation of lack of hope and death. In the poem, a woman is portrayed as having realized that her life must come to an end. ‘Flight of small cheeping birds’ is metaphorical explaining old age. The images of cheeping birds and ‘shrill piping of plenty’ is a contrast to the little hope held by a small percentage of before their deaths and the painful cries of the majority who discover that death is a must even if they prevent it (All poetry, n.d).

The poem presents its content in a calm form and structure but in a depressing manner. The poem is interesting due to its clear portrayal of imagery and reading it is truly an experience. It causes the reader to think of cheeping birds which are fighting to defeat the wind and landing on tree after tree as death approaches.

The format makes the poem easy to read and understand although there are some occasional interruptions in the line of thought of the author. Despite the dark expression of the images and subject of the poem, an appealing language has been used. Some of the rhyming words are negative but nevertheless create an appealing rhythm to the reader (Allpoetry, n.d).

The elements discussed have affected my response to the poem in different ways. For example, the vividness of the imagery causes me to have the opinion that the persona in the poem is most likely to be the aging woman or a person who observes the woman as she realizes how inevitable death is.

This makes it possible to relate with the poem and even personalizing it since its explanations are from the perspective of a person who experiences old age first hand. The descriptions made in the poem are therefore made more credible. The rhyme applied in the poem is so interesting such that I focused on it more than I focused on other aspects in the poem.


Allpoetry. (n.d). To Waken An Old Lady by William Carlos Williams . Available from (Accessed 05 Sep 2011).

Rath, H. (2003). The poetry of Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams. New York: Atlantic Publishers & Dist.