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Wallace Stevens (2 October 1879 – 2 August 1955) was an American modernist poet and businessman.
Born: October 2nd, 1879
Died: August 2nd, 1955
Quotes: 234 sourced quotes total (includes 7 about)
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Death is the mother of beauty
Among twenty snowy mountains, The only moving thing Was the eye of the blackbird.
It was evening all afternoon. It was snowing And it was going to snow. The blackbird sat In the cedar-limbs.
I know noble accents And lucid, inescapable rhythms; But I know, too, That the blackbird is involved In what I know.
I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling Or just after.
A man and a woman Are one. A man and a woman and a blackbird Are one.
I saw how the night came, Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks. I felt afraid. And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.
O thin men of Haddam, Why do you imagine golden birds? Do you not see how the blackbird Walks around the feet Of the women about you?
She sang beyond the genius of the sea
What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress As they are used to wear, and let the boys Bring flowers in last month's newspapers. Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal, Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet On which she embroidered fantails once And spread it so as to cover her face. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Poetry 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, Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
It took dominion everywhere. The jar was gray and bare. It did not give of bird or bush, Like nothing else in Tennessee.
Poor, dear, silly Spring, preparing her annual surprise!
Unfortunately there is nothing more inane than an Easter carol. It is a religious perversion of the activity of Spring in our blood.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous. It is in that thought that we collect ourselves, Out of all the indifferences, into one thing
Light the first light of evening, as in a room In which we rest and, for small reason, think The world imagined is the ultimate good.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take The opposing law and make a peristyle, And from the peristyle project a masque Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness, Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last, Is equally converted into palms, Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm, Madame, we are where we began.
After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption.
Upon the bank, she stood In the cool Of spent emotions. She felt, among the leaves, The dew Of old devotions.
She walked upon the grass, Still quavering. The winds were like her maids, On timid feet, Fetching her woven scarves, Yet wavering.
In the green water, clear and warm, Susanna lay. She searched The touch of springs, And found Concealed imaginings. She sighed, For so much melody.
That scrawny cry — It was A chorister whose c preceded the choir. It was part of the colossal sun, Surrounded by its choral rings, Still far away. It was like A new knowledge of reality.
Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings Of those white elders; but, escaping, Left only Death's ironic scraping. Now, in its immortality, it plays On the clear viol of her memory, And makes a constant sacrament of praise.
We say God and the imagination are one... How high that highest candle lights the dark. Out of this same light, out of the central mind, We make a dwelling in the evening air, In which being there together is enough.
Beauty is momentary in the mind — The fitful tracing of a portal; But in the flesh it is immortal. The body dies; the body's beauty lives. So evenings die, in their green going, A wave, interminably flowing. So gardens die, their meek breath scenting The cowl of winter, done repenting. So maidens die, to the auroral Celebration of a maiden's choral.
Sentimentality is a failure of feeling.
This is old song That will not declare itself...
I am the angel of reality, Seen for a moment standing in the door.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.
Twenty men crossing a bridge, Into a village, Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges, Into twenty villages, Or one man Crossing a single bridge into a village.
At the earliest ending of winter, In March, a scrawny cry from outside Seemed like a sound in his mind. He knew that he heard it, A bird's cry, at daylight or before, In the early March wind.
The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real. When it adheres to the unreal and intensifies what is unreal, while its first effect may be extraordinary, that effect is the maximum effect that it will ever have.
The imagination is one of the forces of nature.
The dress of a woman of Lhassa, in its place is an invisible element of that place made visible.
A. A violent order is disorder; and B. A great disorder is an order. These Two things are one.
The day of the sun is like the day of a king. It is a promenade in the morning, a sitting on the throne at noon, a pageant in the evening.
A thing final in itself and, therefore, good: One of the vast repetitions final in Themselves and, therefore, good, the going round And round and round, the merely going round, Until merely going round is a final good, The way wine comes at a table in a wood.
Soldier, there is a war between the mind And sky, between thought and day and night. It is For that the poet is always in the sun, Patches the moon together in his room To his Virgilian cadences, up down, Up down. It is a war that never ends.
We are the mimics. Clouds are pedagogues.
The first idea is an imagined thing.
My dame, sing for this person accurate songs.
The soul, he said, is composed Of the external world.
The President ordains the bee to be Immortal. The President ordains.
I turn now not to the Bible but to Wallace Stevens
The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.
A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman.
Without a name and nothing to be desired, If only imagined but imagined well.
Music falls on the silence like a sense, A passion that we feel, not understand.
Of these beginnings, gay and green, propose The suitable amours. Time will write them down.
The poem, through candor, brings back a power again That gives a candid kind to everything.
Each must the other take as sign, short sign To stop the whirlwind, balk the elements.
Twenty men crossing a bridge, Into a village, Are Twenty men crossing a bridge Into a village.
The romantic intoning, the declaimed clairvoyance Are parts of apotheosis, appropriate And of its nature, the idiom thereof.
The old seraph, parcel-gilded, among violets Inhaled the appointed odor, while the doves Rose up like phantoms from chronologies.
He imposes orders as he thinks of them, As the fox and snake do. It is a brave affair.
Exile desire For what is not. This is the barrenness Of the fertile thing that can attain no more.
Not to be realized because not to Be seen, not to be loved nor hated because Not to be realized.
The President has apples on the table And barefoot servants round him, who adjust The curtains to a metaphysical "t"
At the heart of many of Stevens's poems are harsh and unpalatable experiences revealed only gradually through his intense stylization.
It is of him, ephebe, to make, to confect The final elegance, not to console Nor sanctify, but plainly to propound.
The right, uplifted foreleg of the horse Suggested that, at the final funeral, The music halted and the horse stood still.
In solitude the trumpets of solitude Are not of another solitude resounding; A little string speaks for a crowd of voices.
I can Do all that angels can. I enjoy like them, Like men besides, like men in light secluded, Enjoying angels.
The imagination is the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in chaos.
That strange flower, the sun, Is just what you say. Have it your way.The world is ugly, And the people are sad..
Logos and logic, crystal hypothesis, Incipit and a form to speak the word And every latent double in the word, Beau linguist.
In being more than an exception, part,Though an heroic part, of the commonal. The major abstraction is the commonal, The inanimate, difficult visage.
On a blue island in a sky-wide water The wild orange trees continued to bloom and to bear, Long after the planter’s death.
Clothe me entire in the final filament, So that I tremble with such love so known And myself am precious for your perfecting.
After the final no there comes a yes And on that yes the future world depends. No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
Bethou me, said sparrow, to the crackled blade, And you, and you, bethou me as you blow, When in my coppice you behold me be.
One ought not to hoard culture. It should be adapted and infused into society as a leaven. Liberality of culture does not mean illiberality of its benefits.
We reason of these things with later reason And we make of what we see, what we see clearly And have seen, a place dependent on ourselves.
Blessings, Stevens; I stand with my back to grammar At an altar you never aspired to, celebrating the sacrament of the imagination whose high-priest notwithstanding you are.
The major abstraction is the idea of man And major man is its exponent, abler In the abstract than in his singular, More fecund as principle than particle
This was their ceremonial hymn: Anon We loved but would no marriage make. Anon The one refused the other one to take, Foreswore the sipping of the marriage wine.
That tuft of jungle feathers, That animal eye, Is just what you say.That savage of fire, That seed, Have it your way.The world is ugly, And the people are sad.
The first idea was not our own. Adam In Eden was the father of Descartes And eve made air the mirror of herself, Of her sons and of her daughters.
To a large extent, the problems of poets are the problems of painters, and poets must often turn to the literature of painting for a discussion of their own problems.
There is a month, a year, there is a time In which majesty is a mirror of the self: I have not but I am and as I am, I am.
To speak of joy and to sing of it, borne on The shoulders of joyous men, to feel the heart That is the common, the bravest fundament, This is a facile exercise
The blue woman, linked and lacquered, at her window Did not desire that feathery argentines Should be cold silver, neither that frothy clouds Should foam, be foamy waves, should move like them
The truth seems to be that we live in concepts of the imagination before the reason has established them. If this is true, then reason is simply the methodizer of the imagination.
The boots of the men clump On the boards of the bridge. The first white wall of the village Rises through fruit-trees. Of what was it I was thinking? So the meaning escapes.
Fat girl, terrestrial, my summer, my night, How is it I find you in difference, see you there In a moving contour, a change not quite completed? You are familiar yet an aberration.
There was such idiot minstrelsy in rain, So many clappers going without bells, That these bethous compose a heavenly gong. One voice repeating, one tireless chorister, The phrases of a single phrase, ke-ke, A single text, granite monotony
Style is not something applied. It is something that permeates. It is of the nature of that in which it is found, whether the poem, the manner of a god, the bearing of a man. It is not a dress.
Tonight the lilacs magnify The easy passion, the ever-ready love Of the lover that lies within us and we breathe An odor evoking nothing, absolute. We encounter in the dead middle of the night The purple odor, the abundant bloom.
What chieftain, walking by himself, crying Most miserable, most victorious,Does not see these separate figures one by one, And yet see only one, in his old coat, His slouching pantaloons, beyond the town,Looking for what was, where it used to be?'''
They will get it straight one day at the Sorbonne. We shall return at twilight from the lecture Pleased that the irrational is rational,Until flicked by feeling, in a gildered street, I call you by name, my green, my fluent mundo.
Two things of opposite natures seem to depend On one another, as a man depends On a woman, day on night, the imagined On the real. This is the origin of change. Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace And forth the particulars of rapture come.
The operation of the imagination in life is more significant than its operation in or in relation to works of art... in life what is important is the truth as it is, while in arts and letters what is important is truth as we see it.
Here is the bread of time to come, Here is its actual stone. The bread Will be our bread, the stone will be Our bed and we shall sleep by night. We shall forget by day, except The moments when we choose to play The imagined pine, the imagined jay.
Like a page of music, like an upper air, Like a momentary color, in which swans Were seraphs, were saints, were changing essences. The west wind was the music, the motion, the force To which the swans curveted, a will to change, A will to make iris frettings on the blank.
The clouds preceded us.There was a muddy centre before we breathed. There was a myth before the myth began, Venerable and articulate and complete.From this the poem springs: that we live in a place That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.
Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea Of this invention, this invented world, The inconceivable idea of the sun. You must become an ignorant man again And see the sun again with an ignorant eye And see it clearly in the idea of it.Never suppose an inventing mind as source Of this idea nor for that mind compose A voluminous master folded in his fire.
I am the spouse. She took her necklace off And laid it in the sand. As I am, I am The spouse. She opened her stone-studded belt. I am the spouse, divested of bright gold, The spouse beyond emerald or amethyst, Beyond the burning body that I bear. I am the woman stripped more nakedly Than nakedness, standing before an inflexible Order, saying I am the contemplated spouse.
What am I to believe? If the angel in his cloud, Serenely gazing at the violent abyss, Plucks on his strings to pluck abysmal glory, Leaps downward through evening’s revelations, and On his spredden wings, needs nothing but deep space, Forgets the gold centre, the golden destiny,Grows warm in the motionless motion of his flight, Am I that imagine this angel less-satisfied? Are the wings his, the lapis-haunted air?
We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or an old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. Deer walk upon our mountains, and quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
That's what misery is, Nothing to have at heart. It is to have or nothing.It is a thing to have, A lion, an ox in his breast, To feel it breathing there.Corazon, stout dog, Young ox, bow-legged bear, He tastes its blood, not spit.He is like a man In the body of a violent beast. Its muscles are his own...The lion sleeps in the sun. Its nose is on its paws. It can kill a man.
Man is an eternal sophomore.
One thing remaining, infallible, would be Enough.
Poetry is a search for the inexplicable.
The world is a force not a presence.
Success as a result of industry is a peasant ideal.
I like my philosophy smothered in beauty and not the opposite.
A poem should be a part of one's sense of life.
A few things for themselves, Florida, venereal soil, Disclose to the lover.
Poetry is an effort of a dissatisfied man to find satisfaction through words.
God is in me or else is not at all (does not exist).
First published in the magazine Others (1915), later included in Harmonium (1923) I
Let wise men piece the world together with wisdom Or poets with holy magic. Hey-di-ho.
'''I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks
The poem goes form the poet’s gibberish to The gibberish of the vulgate and back again.
A grandiose subject is not an assurance of a grandiose effect but, most likely, of the opposite.
Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore.
The poet is a god, or, the young poet is a god. The old poet is a tramp.
Reality is the beginning not the end, Naked Alpha, not the hierophant Omega, Of dense investiture, with luminous vassals.
How full of trifles everything is! It is only one’s thoughts that fill a room with something more than furniture.
There is always an analogy between nature and the imagination, and possibly poetry is merely the strange rhetoric of that parallel.
Stevens is a poet who argues that life is what one makes of it within the limitations of one's own sensibility.
To have nothing to say and to say it in a tragic manner is not the same thing as having something to say.
Slowly the ivy on the stones Becomes the stones. Women become The cities, children become the fields And men in waves become the sea.
A diary is more or less the work of a man of clay whose hands are clumsy and in whose eyes there is no light.
My house has changed a little in the sun. The fragrance of the magnolias come close, False flick, false form, but falseness close to kin.
It is not in the premise that reality Is a solid. It may be a shade that traverses A dust, a force that traverses a shade.
First one beam, then another, then A thousand are radiant in the sky. Each is both star and orb; and day Is the riches of their atmosphere.
Poetry is a purging of the world's poverty and change and evil and death. It is a present perfecting, a satisfaction in the irremediable poverty of life.
Gloomy grammarians in golden gowns, Meekly you keep the mortal rendezvous, Eliciting the still sustaining pomps Of speech which are like music so profound They seem an exaltation without sound.
Out of a thing believed, a thing affirmed: The form on the pillow humming while one sleeps, The aureole above the humming house... It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.
If some really acute observer made as much of egotism as Freud has made of sex, people would forget a good deal about sex and find the explanation for everything in egotism.
I placed a jar in Tennessee And round it was, upon a hill. It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill. The wilderness rose upon it, And sprawled around, no longer wild.
There are men of the East, he said, who are the East. There are men of a province who are that province. There are men of a valley who are that valley.
Donna, donna, dark, Stooping in indigo gown And cloudy constellations, Conceal yourself or disclose Fewest things to the lover — A hand that bears a thick-leaved fruit, A pungent bloom against your shade.
My candle burned alone in an immense valley. Beams of the huge night converged upon it, Until the wind blew. Then beams of the huge night Converged upon its image, Until the wind blew.
These Are the music of meet resignation; these The responsive, still sustaining pomps for you To magnify, if in that drifting waste You are to be accompanied by more Than mute bare splendors of the sun and moon.
Mr. Stevens is the master of a style: that is the most remarkable thing about him. His gift for combining words is baffling and fantastic but sure: even when you do not know what he is saying, you know that he is saying it well.
For the poet, the imagination is paramount, and . . . he dwells apart in his imagination, as the philosopher dwells in his reason, and as the priest dwells in his belief … The imagination is the power of the mind over the possibilities of things."
Life consists Of propositions about life. The human Revery is a solitude in which We compose these propositions, torn by dreams, By the terrible incantations of defeats And by the fear that the defeats and the dreams are one. The whole race is a poet that writes down The eccentric propositions of its fate.
The soldier is poor without the poet’s lines, His petty syllabi, the sounds that stick, Inevitably modulating, in the blood. And war for war, each has its gallant kind. How simply the fictive hero becomes the real; How gladly with proper words the solider dies, If he must, or lives on the bread of faithful speech.
Let’s see the very thing and nothing else. Let’s see it with the hottest fire of sight. Burn everything not part of it to ash. Trace the gold sun about the whitened sky Without evasion by a single metaphor. Look at it in its essential barrenness And say this, this is the centre that I seek.
In European thought in general, as contrasted with American, vigor, life and originality have a kind of easy, professional utterance. American — on the other hand, is expressed in an eager amateurish way. A European gives a sense of scope, of survey, of consideration. An American is strained, sensational. One is artistic gold; the other is bullion.
One of the limits of reality Presents itself in Oley when the hay, Baked through long days, is piled in mows. It is A land too ripe for enigmas, too serene.… Things stop in that direction and since they stop The direction stops and we accept what is As good. The utmost must be good and is…
To see the gods dispelled in mid-air and dissolve like clouds is one of the great human experiences. It is not as if they had gone over the horizon to disappear for a time; nor as if they had been overcome by other gods of greater power and profounder knowledge. It is simply that they came to nothing.
The sun, that brave man, Comes through boughs that lie in wait, That brave man.Green and gloomy eyes In dark forms of the grass Run away.The good stars, Pale helms and spiky spurs, Run away.Fears of my bed, Fears of life and fears of death, Run away.That brave man comes up From below and walks without meditation, That brave man.
I heard them cry — the peacocks. Was it a cry against the twilight Or against the leaves themselves Turning in the wind, Turning as the flames Turned in the fire, Turning as the tails of the peacocks Turned in the loud fire, Loud as the hemlocks Full of the cry of the peacocks? Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?
What the poet has in mind . . . is that poetic value is an intrinsic value. It is not the value of knowledge. It is not the value of faith. It is the value of imagination. The poet tries to exemplify it, in part as I have tried to exemplify it here, by identifying it with an imaginative activity that diffuses itself throughout our lives.
Our own time, and by this I mean the last two or three generations, including our own, can be summed up in a way that brings into unity an immense number of details by saying of it that it is a time in which the search for the supreme truth has been a search in reality or through reality or even a search for some supremely acceptable fiction.
The paramount relation between poetry and painting today, between modern man and modern art, is simply this: that in an age in which disbelief is so profoundly prevalent or, if not disbelief, indifference to questions of belief, poetry and painting, and the arts in general, are, in their measure, a compensation for what has been lost. Men feel that the imagination is the next greatest power to faith: the reigning prince.
To be young is all there is in the world. The rest is nonsense — and cant. They talk so beautifully about work and having a family and a home (and I do, too, sometimes) — but it’s all worry and head-aches and respectable poverty and forced gushing.... Telling people how nice it is, when, in reality, you would give all of your last thirty years for one of your first thirty. Old people are tremendous frauds.
One might have thought of sight, but who could think Of what it sees, for all the ill it sees? Speech found the ear, for all the evil sound, But the dark italics it could not propound. And out of what sees and hears and out Of what one feels, who could have thought to make So many selves, so many sensuous worlds, As if the air, the mid-day air, was swarming With the metaphysical changes that occur, Merely in living as and where we live.
Home from Guatemala, back at the Waldorf. This arrival in the wild country of the soul, All approaches gone, being completely there, Where the wild poem is a substitute For the woman one loves or ought to love, One wild rhapsody a fake for another.You touch the hotel the way you touch moonlight Or sunlight and you hum and the orchestra Hums and you say "The world in a verse,A generation sealed, men remoter than mountains, Women invisible in music and motion and color," After that alien, point-blank, green and actual Guatemala.
Stevens' way of informing us comes in language and imagery so radically different from previous times that it is difficult to recognize exactly what he means. But throughout his poetry he speaks, like the mystics, primarily of the nature of our relationship with the universe. He continually circles back to the idea that we actively participate in what the world looks like and what it means. Although cast in modern terms, this idea is profoundly spiritual and moral. Since he gives no evidence of any direct visionary experience, it's not possible to say Stevens is a "mystic" or a "contemplative" poet. But he is a major figure in modern poetry because he synthesizes the concerns of the modern world — the emphasis on the human self as maker of meaning, the emphasis on scientific rationality, the emphasis on creating new forms to replace outmoded beliefs — with the perennial concerns of the human spirit. To find meaning, or the good — or by implication, God — we need to radically adjust our conception of reality. This takes powerful acts of individual imagination, and the possibilities are immense... Contrary to all appearances, to the difficulty of his verse, and to the preoccupied, distracted interpretations of contemporary critics, Wallace Stevens' poetry is a profoundly spiritual force. Anyone interested in the spiritual problems of modern humans must reckon with it.
All history is modern history.
The blue guitar And I are one.
Life’s nonsense pierces us with strange relation. IV
I play. But this is what I think. XXVI
It was enough for her that she remembered. III
The death of one god is the death of all.
Is it he or is it I that experience this?
A fictive covering Weaves always glistening from the heart and mind. IX
These external regions, what do we fill them with Except reflections IX
The thinking of art seems final when The thinking of god is smoky dew. VII
Place honey on the altars and die, You lovers that are bitter at heart. XIX
The fluctuations of certainty, the change Of degrees of perception in the scholar’s dark. VIII
He tries by a peculiar speech to speak The peculiar potency of the general IX
Abysmal instruments make sounds like pips Of the sweeping meanings that we add to them. V
Nothing had happened because nothing had changed. Yet the General was rubbish in the end. IV
Perhaps, The man-hero is not the exceptional monster, But he that of repetition is most master. X
A breath upon her hand Muted the night. She turned — A cymbal crashed, Amid roaring horns. IV
Behold The approach of him whom none believes, Whom all believe that all believe, A pagan in a varnished car. XI
What is there in life except one's ideas. Good air, good friend, what is there in life? Is it ideas that I believe? XXI
The swarm of thoughts, the swarm of dreams Of inaccessible Utopia. A mountainous music always seemed To be falling and to be passing away. XXVII
An unaffected man in a negative light Could not have borne his labor nor have died Sighing that he should leave the banjo’s twang. VI
They married well because the marriage-place Was what they loved. It was neither heaven nor hell. They were love’s characters come face to face. V
Yet voluble of dumb violence. You look Across the roofs as sigil and as ward And in your centre mark them and are cowed . . . VI
The words they spoke were voices that she heard. She looked at them and saw them as they were And what she felt fought off the barest phrase. VI
If to serenade almost to man Is to miss, by that, things as they are, Say that it is the serenade Of a man that plays a blue guitar. IV
Red-in-red repetitions never going Away,a little rusty, a little rouged, A little roughened and ruder, a crownThe eye could not escape, a red renown Blowing itself upon the tedious ear.
So poisonousAre the ravishments of truth, so fatal to The truth itself, the first idea becomes The hermit in a poet’s metaphors,Who comes and goes and comes and goes all day.
Be content — Expansions, diffusions — content to be The unspotted imbecile revery, The heraldic center of the world Of blue, blue sleek with a hundred chins, The amorist Adjective aflame... XIV
A dead shepherd brought tremendous chords from hellAnd bad the sheep carouse. Or so they said. Children in love with them brought early flowers And scattered them about, no two alike. IV
You remain the more than natural figure. You Become the soft-footed phantom, the irrationalDistortion, however fragrant, however dear. That’s it: the more than rational distortion, The fiction that results from feeling. Yes, that.
The poem refreshes life so that we share, For a moment, the first idea . . . It satisfies Belief in an immaculate beginningAnd sends us, winged by an unconscious will, To an immaculate end.
Apotheosis is not The origin of the major man. He comes,Compact in invincible foils, from reason, Lighted at midnight by the studious eye, Swaddled in revery, the object ofThe hum of thoughts evaded in the mind...
The partaker partakes of that which changes him. The child that touches takes character from the thing, The body, it touches. The captain and his menAre one and the sailor and the sea are one. V
A candle is enough to light the world. It makes it clear. Even at noon It glistens in essential dark. At night, it lights the fruit and wine, The book and bread, things as they are... XV
The wind in which the dead leaves blow. Here I inhale profounder strength And as I am, I speak and move And things are as I think they are And say they are on the blue guitar. XXIX
The monastic man is an artist.The philosopher Appoints man’s place in music, say, today. But the priest desires. The philosopher desires.And not to have is the beginning of desire. To have what is not is its ancient cycle. III
Should there be a question of returning or Of death in memory’s dream? Is spring a sleep?This warmth is for lovers at last accomplishing Their love, this beginning, not resuming, this Booming and booming of the new-come bee. III
The casual is not Enough. The freshness of transformation isThe freshness of a world. It is our own, It is ourselves, the freshness of ourselves, And that necessity and that presentationAre rubbings of a glass in which we peer.
It is the sea that whitens the roof. The sea drifts through the winter air. It is the sea that the north wind makes. The sea is in the falling snow. This gloom is the darkness of the sea. XXVIII
I know that timid breathing. Where Do I begin and end? And where, As I strum the thing, do I pick up That which momentously declares Itself not to be I and yet Must be. It could be nothing else. XIII
'''Poetry is the subject of the poem, From this the poem issues and To this returns. Between the two, Between issue and return, there is An absence in reality, Things as they are. Or so we say. But are these separate? XXIV
'''As a man and woman meet and love forthwith. Perhaps there are moments of awakening, Extreme, fortuitous, personal, in whichWe more than awaken, sit on the edge of sleep, As on an elevation, and behold The academies like structures in a mist. VIII
The sea returns upon the men, The fields entrap the children, brick Is a weed and all the flies are caught, Wingless and withered, but living alive. The discord merely magnified. Deeper within the belly's dark Of time, time grows upon the rock. XII
It must be visible or invisible, Invisible or visible or both: A seeing and unseeing in the eye. The weather and the giant of the weather, Say the weather, the mere weather, the mere air: An abstraction blooded, as a man by thought. VII
Struggling toward impassioned choirs, Crying among the clouds, enraged By gold antagonists in air — I know my lazy, leaden twang Is like the reason in a storm; And yet it brings the storm to bear. I twang it out and leave it there. IX
Just as my fingers on these keys Make music, so the self-same sounds On my spirit make a music, too. Music is feeling, then, not sound; And thus it is that what I feel, Here in this room, desiring you, Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk, Is music. II
The nothingness was a nakedness, a point, Beyond which fact could not progress as fact. Thereon the learning of the man conceived Once more night’s pale illuminations, goldBeneath, far underneath, the surface of His eye and audible in the mountain of His ear, the very material of his mind.
Perhaps The truth depends on a walk around a lake,A composing as the body tires, a stop To see hepatica, a stop to watch A definition growing certain andA wait within that certainty, a rest In the swags of pine-trees bordering the lake. Perhaps there are times of inherent excellence
Things as they are have been destroyed. Have I? Am I a man that is dead At a table on which the food is cold? Is my thought a memory, not alive? Is the spot on the floor, there, wine or blood And whichever it may be, is it mine? XVI
Phoebus is dead, ephebe. But Phoebus was A name for something that never could be named. There was a project for the sun and is.There is a project for the sun. The sun Must bear no name, gold flourisher, but be In the difficulty of what it is to be. II
He might take habit, whether from wave or phrase,Or power of the wave, or deepened speech, Or a leaner being, moving in on him, Of greater aptitude and apprehension,As if the waves at last were never broken, As if the language suddenly, with ease, Said things it had laboriously spoken. IX
Is there a poem that never reaches words And one that chaffers the time away? Is the poem both peculiar and general? There’s a meditation there, in which there seemsTo be an evasion, a thing not apprehended or Not apprehended well. Does the poet Evade us, as in a senseless element?
He is and may be but oh! He is, he is, This foundling of the infected past, so bright, So moving in the manner of his hand. Yet look not at his colored eyes. Give him No names. Dismiss him from your images. The hot of him is purest in the heart. X
Eye without lid, mind without any dream —These are of minstrels lacking minstrelsy, Of an earth in which the first leaf is the tale Of leaves, in which the sparrow is a birdOf stone, that never changes. Bethou him, you And you, bethou him and bethou. It is A sound like any other. It will end. VII
So that's life, then: things are they are? It picks its way on the blue guitar. A million people on one string? And all their manner in the thing, And all their manner, right and wrong, And all their manner, weak and strong? And that's life, then: things as they are, This buzzing of the blue guitar. V
Do not speak to us of the greatness of poetry, Of the torches wisping in the underground, Of the structure of vaults upon a point of light. There are no shadows in our sun, Day is desire and night is sleep. There are no shadows anywhere. The earth, for us, is flat and bare. There are no shadows. VI
What is beyond the cathedral, outside, Balances with nuptial song. So it is to sit and to balance things To and to and to the point of still, To say of one mask it is like, To say of another it is like, To know that the balance does not quite rest, That the mask is strange, however like. XXXII
The bees came booming as if they had never gone, As if hyacinths had never gone. We say This changes and that changes. Thus the constant Violets, doves, girls, bees and hyacinths Are inconstant objects of inconstant cause In a universe of inconstancy. This meansNight-blue is an inconstant thing. The seraph Is satyr in Saturn, according to his thoughts. II
Straight to the utmost crown of night he flew. The nothingness was a nakedness, a pointBeyond which thought could not progress as thought. He had to choose. But it was not a choice Between excluding things. It was not a choiceBetween, but of. He chose to include the things That in each other are included, the whole, The complicate, the amassing harmony. VII
The difficultest rigor is forthwith, On the image of what we see, to catch from that Irrational moment its unreasoning, As when the sun comes rising, when the sea Clears deeply, when the moon hangs on the wall Of heaven-haven. These are not things transformed. Yet we are shaken by them as if they were. We reason about them with a later reason. II
The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar." And they said then, "But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves, A tune upon the blue guitar Of things exactly as they are." II
Throw away the lights, the definitions, And say of what you see in the dark That it is this or that it is that, But do not use the rotted names. How should you walk in that space and know Nothing of the madness of space, Nothing of its jocular procreations? Throw the lights away. Nothing must stand Between you and the shapes you take When the crust of shape has been destroyed. XXXIII
'''A substitute for all the gods: This self, not that gold self aloft, Alone, one's shadow magnified, Lord of the body, looking down, As now and called most high, The shadow of Chocorua In an immenser heaven, aloft, Alone, lord of the land and lord Of the men that live in the land, high lord. One's self and the mountains of one's land, Without shadows, without magnificence, The flesh, the bone, the dirt, the stone. XXII
And the color, the overcast blue Of the air, in which the blue guitar Is a form, described but difficult, And I am merely a shadow hunched Above the arrowy, still string, The maker of a thing yet to be made; The color like a thought that grows Out of a mood, the tragic robe Of the actor, half his gesture, half His speech, the dress of his meaning, silk Sodden with his melancholy words, The weather of his stage, himself. '''X
That I may reduce the monster to Myself, and then may be myself In face of the monster, be more than part Of it, more than the monstrous player of One of its monstrous lutes, not be Alone, but reduce the monster and be, Two things, the two together as one, And play of the monster and of myself, Or better not of myself at all, But of that as its intelligence, Being the lion in the lute Before the lion locked in stone. XX
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 glitterOf the January sun; and not to think Of any misery in the sound of the wind, In the sound of a few leaves,Which is the sound of the land Full of the same wind That is blowing in the same bare placeFor the listener, who listens in the snow, And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
It is the sun that shares our works. The moon shares nothing. It is a sea. When shall I come to say of the sun, It is a sea; it shares nothing; The sun no longer shares our works And the earth is alive with creeping men, Mechanical beetles never quite warm? And shall I then stand in the sun, as now I stand in the moon, and call it good, The immaculate, the merciful good, Detached from us, from things as they are? Not to be part of the sun? To stand Remote and call it merciful? The strings are cold on the blue guitar. VIII
But to impose is not To discover. To discover an order as of A season, to discover summer and know it, To discover winter and know it well, to find Not to impose, not to have reasoned at all, Out of nothing to have come on major weather,It is possible, possible, possible. It must Be possible. It must be that in time The real will from its crude compoundings come,Seeming at first, a beast disgorged, unlike, Warmed by a desperate milk. To find the real, To be stripped of every fiction except one,The fiction of an absolute — Angel, Be silent in your luminous cloud and hear The luminous melody of proper sound. VIII
I am one of you and being one of you Is being and knowing what I am and know. Yet I am the necessary angel of earth, Since, in my sight, you see the earth again, Cleared of its stiff and stubborn, man-locked set And, in my hearing, you hear its tragic drone Rise liquidly in liquid lingerings, Like watery words awash; like meanings said By repetitions of half-meanings. Am I not, Myself, only half a figure of a sort, A figure half seen, or seen for a moment, a man Of the mind, an apparition appareled in Apparels of such lightest look that a turn Of my shoulders and quickly, too quickly, I am gone?
The number of ways of passing between the traditional two fixed points of man’s life, that is to say, of passing from the self to God, is fixed only by the limitations of space, which is limitless. The eternal philosopher is the eternal pilgrim on that road. It is difficult to take him seriously when he relies on the evidence of the teeth, the throat and the bowels. Yet in the one poem that is unimpeachably divine, the poem of the ascent into heaven, it is possible to say that there can be no faults, since it is precisely the faults of life this poem enables us to leave behind. If the idea of God is the ultimate poetic idea, then the idea of the ascent into heaven is only a little below it.
The best definition of true imagination is that it is the sum of our faculties. Poetry is the scholar's art. The acute intelligence of the imagination, the illimitable resources of its memory, its power to possess the moment it perceives — if we were speaking of light itself, and thinking of the relationship between objects and light, no further demonstration would be necessary . . . What light requires a day to do, and by day I mean a kind of Biblical revolution of time, the imagination does in the twinkling of an eye. It colors, increases, brings to a beginning and end, invents languages, crushes men, and, for that matter, gods in its hands, it says to women more than it is possible to say, it rescues all of us from what we have called absolute fact...
The house was quiet and the world was calm. The reader became the book; and summer night Was like the conscious being of the book. The house was quiet and the world was calm. The words were spoken as if there was no book, Except that the reader leaned above the page, Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom The summer night is like a perfection of thought. The house was quiet because it had to be. The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind: The access of perfection to the page. And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world, In which there is no other meaning, itself Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
If there must be a god in the house, must be, Saying things in the room and on the stair,Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor, Or moonlight, silently, as Plato's ghostOr Aristotle's skeleton. Let him hang out His stars on the wall. He must dwell quietly.He must be incapable of speaking, closed, As those are: as light, for all its motion, is;As color, even the closest to us, is; As shapes, though they portend us, are.It is the human that is the alien, The human that has no cousin in the moon.It is the human that demands his speech From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.If there must be a god in the house, let him be one That will not hear us when we speak: a coolnessA vermillioned nothingness, any stick of the mass Of which we are too distantly a part.
Post-religious man, as Stevens saw him, still had a deep need for the kind of exaltation of the body and spirit which goes under different names in different religions — Christians call it grace, that is, the feeling or knowledge that the workings of God are revealed to the individual, thus lifting him or her up to a state of ecstatic consciousness. … For the romantics in general such moments of ecstasis in the midst of nature are experienced by the solitary imagination, and the bonds of society are cast away as unimportant. Stevens once said that the romantic is a falsification, and perhaps the reason for the comment was his feeling that such moments of ecstatic relation in the midst of nature had to be given a social and eventually political meaning, rather than remaining in the arena of the spirit. Stevens poetry then offers a pastoral romantic ecstasis that become the occasions for searching out the relations between the individual, his or her community and the natural world.
It may be dismissed, on the one hand, as a commonplace aesthetic satisfaction: and, on the other hand, if we say that the idea of God is merely a poetic idea, even if the supreme poetic idea, and that our notions of heaven and hell are merely poetry not so called, even if poetry that involves us vitally, the feeling of deliverance, of a release, of a perfection touched, of a vocation so that all men may know the truth and that the truth may set them free — if we say these things and if we are able to see the poet who achieved God and placed Him in His seat in heaven in all His glory, the poet himself, still in the ecstasy of the poem that completely accomplished its purpose, would have seemed, whether young or old, whether in rags or ceremonial robe, a man who needed what he had created, uttering the hymns of joy that followed his creation. This may be a gross exaggeration of a very simple matter. But perhaps the same is true of many of the more prodigious things of life and death.