The narrator describes a housecall to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. The doctor enters the house where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. He exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" knowing that the situation is as bleak as the wintry landscape, and, in fact, joyless. He will offer compassion and "pick the hair from her eyes."


Williams attended numerous women in labor, many of whom were Italian immigrants. Birth control was not available and families were large. In this poem and in others about childbirth, he expresses obvious admiration and compassion for the poor women he visited in dire settings and circumstances. For those reading Williams in a literature and medicine context, Hugh Crawford's book, Modernism, Medicine, & William Carlos Williams (annotated in this database), may be of interest.


First published: 1921

Primary Source

The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1


New Directions

Place Published

New York




A. Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan