Poetry: Covenant by Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams (age 54) (photographed by Orland Fernandez in 1965)

Covenant  by Tennessee Williams

[the following is the first two stanzas of the three stanza poem]

If you are happy, I will give you an apple,
if you are anxious, I will twist your arm,
and if you permit me, I will be glad to hold you
close to my heart forever and do you no harm.

If I am happy, will you give me an apple?
If I am anxious, you may twist my arm.
And if you would like to, I would like you to hold me
close to your heart forever and do me no harm.



Covenant” by Tennessee Williams


from Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams. New Directions, 2007.



Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III  (who was born in Mississippi March 26, 1911 and died in a New York hotel on February 25, 1983) wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs, but is best known as the brilliant playwright of

Williams was awarded four Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is today acknowledged as one of the most accomplished playwrights in the history of English speaking theater.

with thanks to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac

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10 Responses to Poetry: Covenant by Tennessee Williams

  1. Priya says:

    I am glad I saw this poem when I did. I have the concentration to read and re-read it, and smile. I do not, however, understand Mr. Williams’ ‘twist of an arm’. How can demons be driven out by a twist of an arm? By giving an apple, yes.

    I am going to think a lot about this one, Rosie.

  2. dearrosie says:

    Hi Priya,
    I’m so happy to welcome you to this poem at a time when you had the concentration to enjoy it and smile. 🙂

    If only one could prevent a divorce by arm twisting and apples. Imagine!
    Interesting that Tennessee Williams chose to use the word “covenant”
    (a solemn agreement to refrain from a certain action) in the poem as it’s usually found in a religious context.

  3. A passionate poem with a bits of positive humor. This I like, ” if you permit me, I will be glad to hold you
    close to my heart forever and do you no harm.” A warm post with lots of heart and love to give. Thanks.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for stopping by IT. I also like that line. It’s interesting that he uses the word “like” twice in that sentence:
      “And if you would like to, I would like you to hold me”

  4. wightrabbit says:

    I had no idea Tennessee Williams wrote poetry ~ this feels light~hearted but with serious undertones. Thank you for sharing it and a little of his history, Rosie! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      I also didn’t know he wrote anything other than plays. As you said, it’s a light hearted poem about arm twisting and apples, but with serious undertones. I think all he’s saying is please let’s stop fighting.

  5. shoreacres says:

    Oh, my! One of my favorite of his short stories, “The Mattress By the Tomato Patch”, has the very best description ever of Southern California weather. I enjoyed the poem, but who could say that this isn’t poetic?

    The wonderful rocking-horse weather of California goes rocking over our heads and over the galleries of Olga’s summer hotel. It goes rocking over the acrobats and their slim-bodied partners, over the young cadets at the school for flyers, over the ocean that catches the blaze of the moment, over the pier at Venice, over the roller coasters and over the vast beach-homes of the world’s most successful kept women – not only over those persons and paraphernalia, but over all that is shared in the commonwealth of existence.

    It has rocked over me all summer, and over my afternoons at this green and white checkered table in the yellow gelatine flood of a burlesque show. It has gone rocking over accomplishments and defeats; it has covered it all and absorbed the wounds with the pleasures and made no discrimination. For nothing is quite so cavalier as this horse. The giant blue rocking-horse weather of Southern California is rocking and rocking with all the signs pointing forward. It’s plumes are smoky blue ones the sky can’t hold and so lets grandly go of…

    • dearrosie says:

      Such a pleasure to read this little excerpt Linda. I didn’t know Tennessee Williams wrote poetry and I hadn’t read any of his short stories, to describe Southern California’s weather as “rocking-horse weather” is poetic and totally brilliant. I’m going to get hold of the complete story of “The Mattress By the Tomato Patch.”

  6. bronxboy55 says:

    He was born in Mississippi, yet his nickname was “Tennessee.” Doesn’t that alone tell you he must have had an interesting life?

    Thanks for this, Rosie.

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