Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wallace Stevens: Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Is this a complicated poem? I'm not sure. The words in themselves can seem complicated; at least when English is not your first language.

Is this a good poem? Yes. It keeps deepening to me, and I suspect it will for a while.


Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

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.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
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.

1 comment:

Lyle Daggett said...

I do find many of Stevens's poems complicated, or strange, or some of each. I can recall one or two comments I've read by other poets, mentioning the oddness of his diction, his choice of words. This is a quality that moves through much of his work.

I do find something of the quality you talk about here, of the translucence (or, perhaps, luminosity) in his sentences and words. He mentions light, or qualities of light -- sometimes implied rather than explicit -- in many of his poems.

I might describe the poem as a philosophical meditation or speculation. I'm not sure if the word "holy" would have occurred to me, even with the mention of God in one of the lines. This perhaps has as much to do with my perspective as with anything in the poem itself.

I do find in much of Stevens's work a searching for order in the observed world. (I think immediately of the title of another of his poems, "The Idea of Order at Key West." Key West, the town in the string of islands that reaches out from the southern end of Florida, a place saturated with oceanic light.)

One of the features of the English language that many writers have commented on is the hybrid quality of the language -- it's fundamentally a Germanic language, which has assimilated a large amount of Latin vocabulary (along with elements from many other languages). Since the early 20th century, many poets and writers in English have tended to favor the Germanic, Anglo-Saxon core of the language, more than the French and Latin elements -- not as an absolute choice, but as a relative tendency.

Not all poets writing in English, certainly -- Wallace Stevens is one exception. Immediately with the title of this poem, I hear music in the Latin-derived words: the dancing L sounds in "Final Soliloquy," the rounded R sounds in "Interior Paramour."

I should perhaps say that Wallace Stevens has never been a poet with whose work I've felt any great affinity. But I do read him now and again. I find all of this fascinating.