I thought, on the train, how utterly we have forsaken the Earth, in the sense of excluding it from our thoughts. There are but few who consider its physical hugeness, its rough enormity. It is still a disparate monstrosity, full of solitudes & barrens & wilds. It still dwarfs & terrifies & crushes. The rivers still roar, the mountains still crash, the winds still shatter. Man is an affair of cities. His gardens & orchards & fields are mere scrapings. Somehow, however, he has managed to shut out the face of the giant from his windows. But the giant is there, nevertheless.
Souvenirs and Prophecies, ed. Holly Stevens (New York: Knopf, 1977), note of April 18, 1904, p. 134.
The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens
(Photo credit: msn678)
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,
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 place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Man Carrying Thing
(Photo credit: krystian_o)
The poem must resist the intelligence
Almost successfully. Illustration:
A brune figure in winter evening resists
Identity. The thing he carries resists
The most necessitous sense. Accept them, then,
As secondary (parts not quite perceived
Of the obvious whole, uncertain particles
Of the certain solid, the primary free from doubt,
Things floating like the first hundred flakes of snow
Out of a storm we must endure all night,
Out of a storm of secondary things),
A horror of thoughts that suddenly are real.
We must endure our thoughts all night, until
The bright obvious stands motionless in cold.
From Transport to Summer, 1947.
Of Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.
(Photo credit: Madding Crowd)
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
— Wallace Stevens, 1954
Former home of the noted American poet Wallace Stevens, 118 Westerly Terrace, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Stevens wrote many of his best-known poems while living in this house. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All night I sat reading a book,
Sat reading as if in a book
Of sombre pages.
It was autumn and falling stars
Covered the shrivelled forms
Crouched in moonlight.
No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, “Everything
Falls back to coldness,
Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermilion pears
Of the leafless garden.”
The sombre pages bore no print
Except the trace of burning stars
In the frosty heaven.
— Wallace Stevens