But by the end of the first stanza I realized that Williams was in fact speaking of a different kind of "pure" - that is the inbreeding within families, especially in rural areas, that creates physical and mental monstrosities. I thought of a group of teenagers I had met from West Virginia who clearly were an example of this "purity" gone wrong.
The description of Jersey fits in with the same vision. There is obviously a lot of energy among these "devil-may-care men" and the "young slatterns", but it is almost like the energy of pigs rutting in mud. They mate a lot and reproduce; they eat a lot and so grow big - but there is nothing pleasant about either process. The idea of the girls submitting to the physical advances of the men "without emotion save numbed terror" gave me a vision of times in my own life when sex occurred as an accident or through the effect of drink. There is nothing romantic or loving about these people, and Williams made me think about my own life in a way that I usually avoid because of the conclusions that will be drawn from the examination.
Throughout the poem I wondered who the "Elsie" was that is referred to in the title, and eventually I discovered that it was the handicapped nursemaid who works in the doctor's house. Once again the woman is a symbol of a kind of disgusting promiscuity, fertility and yet also physical handicap and weakness. As Williams writes of "her great ungainly hips and flopping breasts" I saw numerous women that I have seen and known who fitted this description. Williams does seem somewhat one-dimensional in his dismissal of the physical shape and nature of a pregnant woman or mother.
The image of pigs returned again as he wrote of "as if the earth under our feet were an excrement of some sky" and that we are, like the pigs, destined to find food among our own waste products. Yet near the end of the play I was reminded that in fact human beings are more than this, because we do possess "imagination". While the "prisoners" that Williams speaks of may have to "strain" their imagination to make it work, and while the effort seems futile within the world as the poet sees it, the imagination does exist nevertheless. Within imagination there is something positive, hinted at by the "isolate flecks" from which "something is given off".
To conclude, To Elsie is a powerful poem that effected me in many different ways. The images that Williams used were often unpleasant, but will remain in my mind for a long time. He reflects a certain reaction at the grossness of the world that exists within all of us at times, including me. Yet near the end of the poem he reminds us that there should be "something" more. It is this "something" that the poem reminded me of.