Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 289
The speaker is an unnamed person who is on the road to the contagious hospital. He muses on the power of nature to regenerate itself as he watches nearby fields filled with dead leaves and the standing water around him. It could be assumed that the speaker is William Carlos Williams himself, who was a doctor as well as a poet and, as a result of his job, had a sense of mortality. This speaker has a sense of the death around him—not only from the contagious hospital but also from the dead leaves and "lifeless vines" he sees in the landscape nearby. However, the speaker also has a sense that underneath the dead leaves, life is stubbornly stirring. By extension, he has a sense of the possibility of rebirth in people.
Patients in the Contagious Hospital
The reader does not hear the voices of the patients in the contagious hospital, but they influence the speaker. He feels their presence, and it is they who likely fuel his meditations on death and rebirth. Therefore, even though the reader does not know them by name, they are characters in the poem.
At first, nature appears dull and lifeless. Spring is personified and arrives "dazed." Nature is the entity that causes the world around it to change. At the end of the poem, nature's roots "grip down and begin to awaken." The active verb "grip" makes nature an actor in the poem and a character, as nature is capable of being active and digging down into its roots. By extension, the speaker implies, humans are like nature: in this poem, both are reawakening. Even when humankind seems to be dead, as at the contagious hospital, it is capable of rebirth.