Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Reader, the Night, and the World

Stevens: Poems

Stevens: Poems 
by Wallace Stevens

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

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 to be
The scholar to whom his 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.

The first line of the poem establishes a contrast between the part and the whole of the moment. The house and the world where quiet and calmness prevail. And in the second sentence we have "the reader", the third part of a triangle that encapsulates the poem. 
 But where are we really? It is a summer night and we are a reader engrossed in our book, so much that we have become the book and in the silence of the night there are words. The logic of the poem inheres in every line so that as the reader becomes the book his access to the book, his mind shares the meaning of the moment with the quiet of the night.
Here we have a magic moment of realization when the reader, with a book in his hands, recognizes himself, his world, the substance of things in what he is reading, so that the reader, the book, the summer night, the house, the world are all fused in an existential unity of real, inner and outer, truth. With this poem Wallace Stevens once again mesmerizes the reader with the music of the spheres--his poetry of spiritual logic that belongs to humanity and the universe.

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