Symphony No.3, in D Minor

By Jonathan Williams 1929–2008 Jonathan Williams

Thousands lavishing, thousands starving;       
intrigues, war, flatteries, envyings,
hypocrisies, lying vanities, hollow amusements,
exhaustion, dissipation, death—and giddiness
and laughter, from the first scene to the last.
—Samuel Palmer, 1858 

I. Pan Awakes: Summer Marches In
               spring rain
               “drives his victims
               out to the animals
               with whom they become
               as one”—
               pain and paeans,
               hung in the mouth,
               to be sung
               II. What the Flowers in the Meadow Tell Me
               June 6, 1857, Thoreau in his Journal:
               A year is made up of a certain series
               and number of sensations and thoughts
               which have their language in nature…
               Now I am ice, now
               I am sorrel.
               Or, Clare, 1840, Epping Forest:
               I found the poems in the fields
               And only wrote them down
               The book I love is everywhere
               And not in idle words
               John, claritas tell us the words are not idle,
               the syllables are able
               to turn plantains into quatrains,
              tune raceme to cyme, panicle and umbel to
              form corollas in light clusters of tones…
               Sam Palmer hit it:
               “Milton, by one epithet
               draws an oak of the largest girth I ever saw,
               ‘Pine and monumental oak’:
               I have just been trying to draw a large one in
               Lullingstone; but the poet’s tree is huger than
               any in the park.”
               Muse in a meadow, compose in
               a mind!
               III. What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me
               Harris’s Sparrow—
               103 species seen
               by the Georgia Ornithological Society
               in Rabun Gap,
               including Harris’s Sparrow, with its
               black crown, face, and bib encircling
               a pink bill
               It was, I think, the third sighting
               in Georgia, and I should have been there
               instead of reading Clare, listening to
               catbirds and worrying about
               Turdus migratorious that flew
               directly into the Volkswagen and
               bounced into a ditch
               Friend Robin, I cannot figure it, if I’d
               been going 40 you might be
               whistling in some grass.
               10 tepid people got 10 stale letters
               one day earlier,
               I cannot be happy
               about that.
               IV. What the Night Tells Me
               the dark drones on
               in the southern wheat fields
               and the hop flowers
               open before the sun’s
               the end
               is ripeness, the wind
               and the dawn says
               YES! it says
               V. What the Morning Bells Tell Me
               Sounds, and sweet aires
               that give delight
               and hurt not—
               that, let
               bear us
               VI. What Love Tells Me
               Anton Bruckner counts the 877th leaf
               on a linden tree in the countryside near Wien
               and prays:
               Dear God, Sweet Jesus,
               Save Us, Save Us…
               the Light in the Grass,
               the Wind on the Hill,
               are in my head,
               the world cannot be heard
               Leaves obliterate
               my  heart,
               we touch each other
               far apart…
               Let us count
               the Darkness

Jonathan Williams, "Symphony No. 3, In D Minor" from Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Williams.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Jonathan Williams 1929–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, The Mind, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Allusion, Series/Sequence


Founder of the Jargon Society and publisher of Jargon Press, Jonathan Williams was born in Asheville, North Carolina. He attended St. Albans School in Washington, DC, and then Princeton University before dropping out to attend the Chicago Institute of Design and Black Mountain College. A photographer and graphic artist, his books include An Ear in Bartram’s Tree: Selected Poems, 1957-1967 (1969), Strung Out with Elgar on a . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Allusion, Series/Sequence

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.