An Ordinary Evening in New Haven — Wallace Stevens
The eye’s plain version is a thing apart,
The vulgate of experience. Of this,
A few words, and and yet, and yet, and yet –
As part of the never-ending meditation,
Part of the question that is a giant himself:
Of what is this house composed if not of the sun,
These houses, these difficult objects, dilapidate
Appearances of what appearances,
Words, lines, not meanings, not communications,
Dark things without a double, after all,
Unless a second giant kills the first –
A recent imagining of reality,
Much like a new resemblance of the sun,
Down-pouring, up-springing and inevitable,
A larger poem for a larger audience,
As if the crude collops came together as one,
A mythological form, a festival sphere,
A great bosom, beard and being, alive with age.
Reality is the beginning not the end,
Naked Alpha, not the hierophant Omega,
Of dense investiture, with luminous vassals.
It is the infant A standing on infant legs,
Not twisted, stooping, polymathic Z,
He that kneels always on the edge of space
In the pallid perceptions of its distances.
Alpha fears men or else Omega’s men
Or else his prolongations of the human.
These characters are around us in the scene.
For one it is enough; for one it is not;
For neither is it profound absentia,
Since both alike appoint themselves the choice
Custodians of the glory of the scene,
The immaculate interpreters of life.
But that’s the difference: in the end and the way
To the end. Alpha continues to begin.
Omega is refreshed at every end.
We keep coming back and coming back
To the real: to the hotel instead of the hymns
That fall upon it out of the wind. We seek
The poem of pure reality, untouched
By trope or deviation, straight to the word,
Straight to the transfixing object, to the object
At the exactest point at which it is itself, Transfixing by
being purely what it is,
A view of New Haven, say, through the certain eye,
The eye made clear of uncertainty, with the sight
Of simple seeing, without reflection.
We seek Nothing beyond reality. Within it,
Everything, the spirit’s alchemicana
Included, the spirit that goes roundabout
And through included, not merely the visible,
The solid, but the movable, the moment,
The coming on of feasts and the habits of saints,
The pattern of the heavens and high, night air.
In the metaphysical streets of the physical town
We remember the lion of Juda and we save
The phrase … Say of each lion of the spirit
It is a cat of a sleek transparency
That shines with a nocturnal shine alone.
The great cat must stand potent in the sun.
The phrase grows weak. The fact takes up the strength
Of the phrase. It contrives the self-same evocations
And Juda becomes New Haven or else must.
In the metaphysical streets, the profoundest forms
Go with the walker subtly walking there.
These he destroys with wafts of wakening,
Free from their majesty and yet in need
Of majesty, of an invincible clou,
A minimum of making in the mind,
A verity of the most veracious men,
The propounding of four seasons and twelve months.
The brilliancy at the central of the earth.
The poem is the cry of its occasion,
Part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is,
Not as it was: part of the reverberation
Of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues
Are like newspapers blown by the wind. He speaks
By sight and insight as they are. There is no
Tomorrow for him. The wind will have passed by,
The statues will have gone back to be things about.
The mobile and the immobile flickering
In the area between is and was are leaves,
Leaves burnished in autumnal burnished trees
And leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings
Around and away, resembling the presence of thought,
Resembling the presences of thoughts, as if,
In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
The town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.
Among time’s images, there is not one
Of this present, the venerable mask above
The dilapidation of dilapidations.
The oldest-newest day is the newest alone.
The oldest-newest night does not creak by,
With lanterns, like a celestial ancientness.
Silently it heaves its youthful sleep from the sea –
The Oklahoman — the Italian blue
Beyond the horizon with its masculine,
Their eyes closed, in a young palaver of lips.
And yet the wind whimpers oldly of old age
In the western night. The venerable mask,
In this perfections occasionally speaks
And something of death’s poverty is heard,
This should be tragedy’s most moving face.
It is a bough in the electric light
And exhalations in the eaves, so little
To indicate the total leaflessness.
Professor Eucalyptus said, “The search
For reality is as momentous as
The search for god.” It is the philosopher’s search
For an interior made exterior
And the poet’s search for the same exterior made
Interior: breathless things broodingly abreath
With the Inhalations of original cold
And of original earliness. Yet the sense
Of cold and earliness is a daily sense,
Not the predicate of bright origin.
Creation is not renewed by images
Of lone wanderers. To re-create, to use
The cold and earliness and bright origin
Is to search. Likewise to say of the evening star,
The most ancient light in the most ancient sky,
That it is wholly an inner light, that it shines
From the sleepy bosom of the real, re-creates,
Searches a possible for its possibleness.
If it should be true that reality exists
In the mind: the tin plate, the loaf of bread on it,
The long-bladed knife, the little to drink and her
Misericordia, it follows that
Real and unreal are two in one: New Haven
Before and after one arrives or, say,
Bergamo on a postcard, Rome after dark,
Sweden described, Salzburg with shaded eyes
Or Paris in conversation at a café.
This endlessly elaborating poem
Displays the theory of poetry,
As the life of poetry. A more severe,
More harassing master would extemporize
Subtler, more urgent proof that the theory
Of poetry is the theory of life,
As it is, in the intricate evasions of as,
In things seen and unseen, created from nothingness,
The heavens, the hells, the worlds, the longed-for lands.
The last leaf that is going to fall has fallen.
The robins are là-bas, the squirrels, in tree — caves,
Huddle together in the knowledge of squirrels.
The wind has blown the silence of summer away.
It buzzes beyond the horizon or in the ground:
In mud under ponds, where the sky used to be reflected.
The barrenness that appears is an exposing.
It is not part of what is absent, a halt
For farewells, a sad hanging on for remembrances.
It is a coming on and a coming forth.
The pines that were fans and fragrances emerge,
Staked solidly in a gusty grappling with rocks.
The glass of the air becomes an element –
It was something imagined that has been washed away.
A clearness has returned. It stands restored.
It is not an empty clearness, a bottomless sight.
It is a visibility of thought,
In which hundreds of eyes, in one mind, see at once.
The less legible meanings of sounds, the little reds
Not often realized, the lighter words
In the heavy drum of speech, the inner men
Behind the outer shields, the sheets of music
In the strokes of thunder, dead candles at the window
When day comes, fire-foams in the motions of the sea,
Flickings from finikin to fine finikin
And the general fidget from busts of Constantine
To photographs of the late president, Mr. Blank,
These are the edgings and inchings of final form,
The swanning activities of the formulae
Of statement, directly and indirectly getting at,
Like an evening evoking the spectrum of violet,
A philosopher practicing scales on his piano,
A woman writing a note and tearing it up.
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.
In the land of the lemon trees, yellow and yellow were
Yellow-blue, yellow-green, pungent with citron-sap,
Dangling and spangling, the mic-mac of mocking birds.
In the land of the elm trees, wandering mariners
Looked on big women, whose ruddy-ripe images
Wreathed round and round the round wreath of autumn.
They rolled their r’s, there, in the land of the citrons.
In the land of big mariners, the words they spoke
Were mere brown clods, mere catching weeds of talk.
When the mariners came to the land of the lemon trees,
At last, in that blond atmosphere, bronzed hard,
They said, “We are back once more in the land of the elm trees,
But folded over, turned round.” It was the same,
Except for the adjectives, an alteration
Of words that was a change of nature, more
Than the difference that clouds make over a town.
The countrymen were changed and each constant thing.
Their dark-colored words had redescribed the citrons.