Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday Morning Excerpt

We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.



This excerpt--the end of Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning"--is striking, mysterious, lingering, and beautiful. In a Kantian sense, the reader is gaining pleasure from evaluating the free play of the imagination (with Stevens' metaphors, images, and leaps) in conjunction with understanding. The imagination's representations (attributes and ideas in the poem) extend beyond a single, definable concept or theme, and are ineffable, yet the reader maintains some understanding. There is the notion that one or many concepts are being elaborated upon, and in attempting to follow the poem's network of images and its conflicting pastoral and menacing lines in relation to some concept, the reader experiences beauty. Stevens even said himself in his poem "Man Carrying Thing," "The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully."

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