“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.”
—Wallace Steevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”
“It matters, because everything we say
Of the past is description without place, a cast
Of the imagination, made in sound;
And because what we say of the future must portend,
Be alive with its own seemings, seeming to be
Like rubies reddened by rubies reddening.”
—Wallace Stevens, from “Description Without Place”
“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.”
“The clouds preceded us.
There was a muddy center before we breathed.
There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.
From this 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.
We are the mimics. Clouds are pedagogues.”
—Wallace Stevens, from “It Must Be Abstract” in Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction
“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.