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Friday, November 27, 2009

Library Window


The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm
by Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955


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.

1923

14 comments:

Shell Sherree said...

I'll find some quiet time in the house to properly appreciate the meaning of this one. {Is it shallow for me to say right now, how much I love this photo of yours, Petrea?}

Petrea said...

Sweet Shell Sherree, it's never shallow to say something nice to someone.

Isn't that a lovely poem? I didn't know it; J. suggested it when he saw the photo.

Bellis said...

Your photo of the reader in the window is a lovely advertisement for our beautiful city library, and the poem goes so well with it, though I couldn't help thinking that when it was written, leafblowers and gas-powered lawn mowers were not in use. By the way, the name of Pasadena's next One City One Book is top secret this year until the official unveiling, which has me chafing at the bit to find out what it is.

altadenahiker said...

I love Wallace Stevens. I love he spent an unassuming life as a lawyer for an insurance company. Somehow I trust a poet who had a life other than just being a poet.

Margaret said...

I sure like that poem, and I like AH's history. I never knew that.

Katie said...

Lovely photo. Sitting quietly in a library reading like this sounds like a much better day-after-Thanksgiving activity than rushing out to join the frenzied mobs of shoppers. Especially when there are real gems to discover, like the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Thanks for the introduction!

J+P said...

Call Petrea the roller of big cigars …

AmyR said...

Lovely poem; you can bet I will be Googling Mr. Stevens more today.

This photo and the lighting are really striking.

Virginia said...

Oh well, I am confessing envy that your J is such a great partner to your photographs and all the rest. What a beautiful photo and the words are perfect. You know I suffer from "word envy" and "photograph envy" both prevalent here. I wish J+P lived closer.
V

Petrea said...

I don't understand what you mean, J+P. But that's okay, you found the poem in the first place. Plus, sometimes poetry requires thought and study.

I first read Wallace Stevens in college: his "Sunday Morning" was the first poem I ever cared to study and think about, and it's still worth attention.

I know, Virginia, I'm lucky.

I just checked the Wikipedia article on Stevens and it says his papers are in the Huntington Library's collection!

J+P said...

I mean only another reference:


Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.


—"The Emperor of Ice Cream," by the estimable Mr. Stevens, also from "Harmonium, I bleeve.

Petrea said...

Oh yes. Speaking of poetry that requires thought and study. "The Emperor of Ice Cream" is worth it.

Ms M said...

Wonderful post with your photo and the poetry of Mr. Stevens. They fit together well.

Petrea said...

Thanks. Soft spot in my heart for this one.