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WALLACE STEVENS POEMS

Wallace Stevens
(1897 1955)
The Sno Man
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
n the sound of a few leaves,
!hich is the sound of the land
"ull of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
"or the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
#othing that is not there and the nothing that is$
!"#h$Tone% Ol% Ch&"st"an Wo'an
%oetry is the supreme fiction, madame$
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven$ Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
&ike windy citherns hankering for hymns$
!e agree in principle$ That's clear$ (ut take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a mas)ue
(eyond the planets$ Thus, our bawdiness,
*npurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
s e)ually converted into palms,
+)uiggling like sa,ophones$ And palm for palm,
-adame, we are where we began$ Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
.our disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
+macking their mu//y bellies in parade,
%roud of such novelties of the sublime,
+uch tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
-ay, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres$
This will make widows wince$ (ut fictive things
!ink as they will$ !ink most when widows wince$
The E'(e&o& o) *ce$C&ea'
0all the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
n kitchen cups concupiscent curds$
&et the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
(ring flowers in last month's newspapers$
&et be be finale of seem$
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream$
Take from the dresser of deal,
&acking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face$
f her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb$
&et the lamp affi, its beam$
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream$
+"s"ll,s"on'ent o) Ten O-Cloc.
The houses are haunted
(y white night-gowns$
#one are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings$
#one of them are strange,
!ith socks of lace
And beaded ceintures$
%eople are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles$
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
1runk and asleep in his boots,
0atches tigers
n red weather$
S,n%a/ Mo&n"n#
*
0omplacencies of the peignoir, and late
0offee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
*pon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice$
+he dreams a little, and she feels the dark
2ncroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights$
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
+eem things in some procession of the dead,
!inding across wide water, without sound$
The day is like wide water, without sound,
+tilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent %alestine,
1ominion of the blood and sepulchre$
**
!hy should she give her bounty to the dead3
!hat is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams3
4
WALLACE STEVENS POEMS
+hall she not find in comforts of the sun,
n pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
n any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven3
1ivinity must live within herself5
%assions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
6rievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
2lations when the forest blooms; gusty
2motions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch$
These are the measures destined for her soul$
***
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth$
#o mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
&arge-mannered motions to his mythy mind
7e moved among us, as a muttering king,
-agnificent, would move among his hinds,
*ntil our blood, commingling, virginal,
!ith heaven, brought such re)uital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star$
+hall our blood fail3 Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise3 And shall the earth
+eem all of paradise that we shall know3
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And ne,t in glory to enduring love,
#ot this dividing and indifferent blue$
*V
+he says, 8 am content when wakened birds,
(efore they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet )uestionings;
(ut when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
9eturn no more, where, then, is paradise3:
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
#or any old chimera of the grave,
#either the golden underground, nor isle
-elodious, where spirits gat them home,
#or visionary south, nor cloudy palm
9emote on heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
&ike her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
(y the consummation of the swallow's wings$
V
+he says, 8(ut in contentment still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss$:
1eath is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires$ Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
!here triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
!hispered a little out of tenderness,
+he makes the willow shiver in the sun
"or maidens who were wont to sit and ga/e
*pon the grass, relin)uished to their feet$
+he causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate$ The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves$
V*
s there no change of death in paradise3
1oes ripe fruit never fall3 Or do the boughs
7ang always heavy in that perfect sky,
*nchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
!ith rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang3
!hy set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum3
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes;
1eath is the mother of beauty, mystical,
!ithin whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly$
V**
+upple and turbulent, a ring of men
+hall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
#ot as a god, but as a god might be,
#aked among them, like a savage source$
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward$
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn$
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest$
V***
+he hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, 8The tomb in %alestine
s not the porch of spirits lingering$
t is the grave of Jesus, where he lay$:
!e live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable$
1eer walk upon our mountains, and the )uail
!histle about us their spontaneous cries;
+weet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
1ownward to darkness, on e,tended wings$
<
WALLACE STEVENS POEMS
Anec%ote o) the 0a&
placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill$
t made the slovenly wilderness
+urround that hill$
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild$
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air$
t took dominion everywhere$
The jar was gray and bare$
t did not give of bird or bush,
&ike nothing else in Tennessee$
Pete& 1,"nce at the Clav"e&
*
Just as my fingers on these keys
-ake music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too$
-usic is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what feel,
7ere in this room, desiring you,
Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
s music$ t is like the strain
!aked in the elders by +usanna;
Of a green evening, clear and warm,
+he bathed in her still garden, while
The red-eyed elders, watching, felt
The basses of their beings throb
n witching chords, and their thin blood
%ulse pi//icati of 7osanna$
**
n the green water, clear and warm,
+usanna lay$
+he searched
The touch of springs,
And found
0oncealed imaginings$
+he sighed,
"or so much melody$
*pon the bank, she stood
n the cool
Of spent emotions$
+he felt, among the leaves,
The dew
Of old devotions$
+he walked upon the grass,
+till )uavering$
The winds were like her maids,
On timid feet,
"etching her woven scarves,
.et wavering$
A breath upon her hand
-uted the night$
+he turned =
A cymbal crashed,
Amid roaring horns$
***
+oon, with a noise like tambourines,
0ame her attendant (y/antines$
They wondered why +usanna cried
Against the elders by her side;
And as they whispered, the refrain
!as like a willow swept by rain$
Anon, their lamps' uplifted flame
9evealed +usanna and her shame$
And then, the simpering (y/antines
"led, with a noise like tambourines$
*V
(eauty is momentary in the mind =
The fitful tracing of a portal;
(ut in the flesh it is immortal$
The body dies; the body's beauty lives$
+o evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing$
+o gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting$
+o maidens die, to the auroral
0elebration of a maiden's choral$
+usanna's music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
&eft only 1eath's ironic scraping$
#ow, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise$
Th"&teen Wa/s o) Loo."n# at a 2lac.3"&%
*
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
!as the eye of the blackbird$
**
was of three minds,
&ike a tree
n which there are three blackbirds$
>
WALLACE STEVENS POEMS
***
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds$
t was a small part of the pantomime$
*V
A man and a woman
Are one$
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one$
V
do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after$
V*
cicles filled the long window
!ith barbaric glass$
The shadow of the blackbird
0rossed it, to and fro$
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause$
V**
O thin men of 7addam,
!hy do you imagine golden birds3
1o you not see how the blackbird
!alks around the feet
Of the women about you3
V***
know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
(ut know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
n what know$
*4
!hen the blackbird flew out of sight,
t marked the edge
Of one of many circles$
4
At the sight of blackbirds
"lying in a green light,
2ven the bawds of euphony
!ould cry out sharply$
4*
7e rode over 0onnecticut
n a glass coach$
Once, a fear pierced him,
n that he mistook
The shadow of his e)uipage
"or blackbirds$
4**
The river is moving$
The blackbird must be flying$
4***
t was evening all afternoon$
t was snowing
And it was going to snow$
The blackbird sat
n the cedar-limbs$
The *%ea o) O&%e& at 5e/ West
+he sang beyond the genius of the sea$
The water never formed to mind or voice,
&ike a body wholly body, fluttering
ts empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
-ade constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
nhuman, of the veritable ocean$
The sea was not a mask$ #o more was she$
The song and water were not medleyed sound
2ven if what she sang was what she heard$
+ince what she sang was uttered word by word$
t may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
(ut it was she and not the sea we heard$
"or she was the maker of the song she sang$
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
!as merely a place by which she walked to sing$
!hose spirit is this3 we said, because we knew
t was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang$
f it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
f it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
7owever clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
9epeated in a summer without end
And sound alone$ (ut it was more than that,
-ore even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bron/e shadows heaped
On high hori/ons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea$
t was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing$
+he measured to the hour its solitude$
+he was the single artificer of the world
n which she sang$ And when she sang, the sea,
!hatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker$ Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
?new that there never was a world for her
@
WALLACE STEVENS POEMS
2,cept the one she sang and, singing, made$
9amon "ernande/, tell me, if you know,
!hy, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
-astered the night and portioned out the sea,
"i,ing embla/oned /ones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night$
Oh; (lessed rage for order, pale 9amon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
!ords of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
n ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds$
O) Mo%e&n Poet&/
The poem of the mind in the act of finding
!hat will suffice$ t has not always had
To find5 the scene was set; it repeated what
!as in the script$
Then the theatre was changed
To something else$ ts past was a souvenir$
t has to be living, to learn the speech of the place$
t has to face the men of the time and to meet
The women of the time$ t has to think about war
And it has to find what will suffice$ t has
To construct a new stage$ t has to be on that stage
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
!ith meditation, speak words that in the ear,
n the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
2,actly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
#ot to the play, but to itself, e,pressed
n an emotion as of two people, as of two
2motions becoming one$ The actor is
A metaphysician in the dark, twanging
An instrument, twanging a wiry string that gives
+ounds passing through sudden rightnesses, wholly
0ontaining the mind, below which it cannot
descend,
(eyond which it has no will to rise$
t must
(e the finding of a satisfaction, and may
(e of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
0ombing$ The poem of the act of the mind$
The Pla"n Sense o) Th"n#s
After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things$ t is as if
!e had come to an end of the imagination,
nanimate in an inert savoir$
t is difficult even to choose the adjective
"or this blank cold, this sadness without cause$
The great structure has become a minor house$
#o turban walks across the lessened floors$
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint$
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side$
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
n a repetitiousness of men and flies$
.et the absence of the imagination had
tself to be imagined$ The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
-ud, water like dirty glass, e,pressing silence
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
7ad to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
9e)uired, as necessity re)uires$
A 1,"et No&'al L")e
7is place, as he sat and as he thought, was not
n anything that he constructed, so frail,
+o barely lit, so shadowed over and naught,
As, for e,ample, a world in which, like snow,
7e became an inhabitant, obedient
To gallant notions on the part of cold$
t was here$ This was the setting and the time
Of year$ 7ere in his house and in his room,
n his chair, the most tran)uil thought grew peaked
And the oldest and warmest heart was cut
(y gallent notions on the part of night A
(oth late and alone, above the crickets' chortds,
(abbling, each one, the uni)ueness of its sound$
There was no fury in transcendent forms$
(ut his actual candle bla/ed with artifice$
B