August 11, 2009

Downward to darkness, on extended wings

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.
               - from the poem, Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens
Also, earlier in the poem, these lovely lines:
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.

I had to go read Sunday Morning after reading 4 pages about this poem in a book I randomly picked up at Boston Public Library earlier today: Revolution and Convention in Modern Poetry: Studies in Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Yvor Winters  by Donald E. Stanford. I lot of this critical writing about poetry goes over my head and yet reading critics write about poetry tells me how complex poetry can be and how we are mere hacks and poseurs who think we write poetry!
In any case, I had a little exposure to Wallace Stevens' and William Carlos Williams' poetry in April this year when I was celebrating National Poetry Month with tweets about poetry....and so am delighted to be reading and finding gems like these in their poetry.

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