Thursday, October 9, 2008

Celebrate National Poetry Day

I don't have time for a full post on Wallace Stevens today, but since Mark Thwaite recommended we carry him around today for Britain's National Poetry Day, I thought I would oblige my British readers (or anyone in the mood) with this so that you may carry it around in your head, if not in your pocket. It will certainly give you more return today than your investments

A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince. But fictive things
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.


Unknown said...

Great post. Here's some writing I found on National Poetry Day...I think you'll enjoy reading it!

Cheers to good writing :)

bioephemera said...

I have never completely understood where Stevens was going with this poem, which makes me love it all the more! The language is so captivating, I can't help but lose track of everything else - it's like a Hopkins poem in that regard. Lovely to see it again.

sunt_lacrimae_rerum said...

Thank you for posting Stevens. he is one of my favorites.

Ted said...

slr - My pleasure - welcome.