Friday, April 4, 2008
The Parable of the Blind: Explication
Blindness Towards God
In the poem “The Parable of the Blind,” William Carlos Williams suggests that the beggars are blind towards the truth, which in this poem the truth means God. The first clue is that the word parable, from the title, means “a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson”(definition taken from dictionary.com). Williams describes Brueghel’s painting with his poem, and in his poem, he insinuates a moral lesson being taught from the painting. He starts off differentiating the colors of this painting in comparison with that of the others that Brueghel painted in the first stanza, “without a red//in the composition”(lines3-4). This shows that there are no vibrant colors, that the paintings dark colors represent the blindness.
Williams calls the group of peasants in the painting beggars in the second stanza, “…shows a group/of beggars..”(lines 4-5). He refers to them as beggars because they have their faces lifted upwards, with a sad expression. They look as if they were begging, or as if they were in need of this ‘truth/light’, “the faces are raised/as toward the light”(lines19-20). Williams explains them as if they are begging for light, for God, because they are blind towards Him. He then, beginning the moral lesson, describes the ‘beggars’ in the second stanza to be “leading/each other diagonally downward”(lines 5-6). When people are blind towards God(light), it’s easier for others to who are also blind and weak to follow each other into sinning, and then “to stumble finally into a bog”(line9), as Williams states it. He states this two times, differently though, once in the beginning and then again at the end, “one/follows the others, stick in/hand”(lines22-24). When reading these words, a phrase that is or was often used came to my thoughts; a rotten apple can spoil a barrel full of good apples. The lesson or idea of this phrase is what Williams is insinuating in those lines. The blind ‘beggars’ will each fall into that ‘bog’ one buy one until one of them decides to let go of the stick and follow that light he looks up for. The meaning of the “light”(line20) is mentioned a couple of lines before this one, where he points out that “a peasant/cottage is seen and a church spire”(lines17-18). Also, the ‘beggars’ faces are described by Williams as being ‘raised’ towards the light in lines 19-20, and light comes from above, from heaven, where the sun is. Therefore, since God lives in heaven, and the sun is also usually described in myths as being God, the light that Williams mentions in the poem that the beggars are longing for, is God.
Lastly, Williams describes the beggars as carrying “pitiful possessions”(line16) in which one of them was a basin. He later explains that the basin was “to wash in a peasant/”(line17). The ‘wash in’ probably has to do with washing away their sins. This concludes with the religious lesson being taught throughout the poem.