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Corey White

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)


       Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1879 and was enrolled in Reading Boys' High School until 1892. In 1893 he enrolled at Harvard College, he then began to write for the Harvard Advocate, Trend, and Harriet Monroe's magazine called Poetry. He left Harvard without a degree in 1900, and worked as a reporter for the New York Tribune. Stevens then entered New York Law School and graduated in 1903. He worked as an attorney in several different firms and in 1908 he got a job working for American Bonding Company. Stevens then married a young woman from his town by the name of Elsie Kachel Moll, and 1924 Holly Stevens was born. Stevens released his first collection of verse, which he named Harmonium at the ripe old age of forty-four. Harmonium includes such works as: The Emperor of the Ice Cream, Le Monocle de Mon Oncle, The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Metaphors of a Magnifico and many more works. In 1934 he was named vice president of investment banking for Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, one of the largest in America. Being appointed vice president came at the perfect time for Stevens and family because the depression was affecting everyone except the wealthy and the depression did not affect him at all. As 1935 rolled around Stevens released another collection of poems called Ideas and Order which recieved mixed opinions from readers. From the early 1940's to his death on August 2, 1955 Stevens had entered a period in his life where he was the most creative with his poems and in 1955 he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award.










 Metaphors of a Magnifico



Twenty men crossing a bridge,

Into a village,
Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges,
Into twenty villages,
Or one man
Crossing a single bridge into a village.

This is old song
That will not declare itself . . .

Twenty men crossing a bridge,
Into a village,
Twenty men crossing a bridge
Into a village.

That will not declare itself
Yet is certain as meaning . . .

The boots of the men clump
On the boards of the bridge.
The first white wall of the village
Rises through fruit-trees.
Of what was it I was thinking?
So the meaning escapes.

The first white wall of the village . . .
The fruit-trees . . .

Metaphors of a Magnifico- I came up with two different ideas for what this poem was written for. First thing that came

up in my mind was a small battalion of soldiers marching into a village to take it from the enemy forces. I can imagine

because of the words that Stevens uses to describe twenty men crossing a bridge into a village. Why else would twenty men cross a bridge

into a village? For the purpose of taking it over, I believe, and the men are all having different thoughts on what they are doing there. "Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges, into twenty villages". I believe Stevens is trying to say that although the men are one group and can be seen as that, they are in fact, twenty men with twenty different thoughts and ideas. That when each man enters the village they have twenty different views of what they are seeing. "This is old song that will not declare itself" I thought Stevens put this line in the poem to remind people that war will never stop and it is the same old thing every time. At the end of the poem he adds "The first white wall of the village.... The fruit-trees..." I also think Stevens put these lines in the poem to tell people to look at the beautiful things in life instead of fighting and killing each other. Second thing I thought of when I read this poem was that twenty men are returning from battle, heading back into their lives. In war they were one but now that they are on going back into their homes, they are all having different thoughts about what they should do with there lives. "The first white wall of the village... The fruit trees.." I thought was saying that the war was over and the village was peace and serenity.
















 Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock





The houses are haunted

By white night-gowns.

None are green,

Or purple with green rings,

Or green with yellow rings,

Or yellow with blue rings.

None of them are strange,

With socks of lace

And beaded ceintures.

People are not going

To dream of baboons and periwinkles.

Only, here and there, an old sailor,

Drunk and asleep in his boots,

Catches Tigers

In red weather. 




Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock-I felt like Stevens wrote this poem to show the difference between dreams and reality. I believe he uses powerful images such as "Catches Tigers In red weather" and "Only, here and there, an old sailor, Drunk and asleep in his boots". These two lines to me stuck out the most because they are unusual and don't seem to fit there but at the same time when I read the poem over and over again they seem to have something to do with dreams. I believe only in ours dreams we can catch tigers, and be a well traveled sailor, which Stevens suggests in lines 12 and 13. Also they way he starts out this poem kind of gives me the sense that in our dreams we dream of scary things that can't happen in reality, and at the same time I believe that he was trying to say that we are all the same "By white night gowns." I believe when Stevens put this line in this poem it was supposed to have two meanings, one that ghosts invade our haunted houses in our dreams, second, that we are all the same until we go to bed and then we all have different dreams which makes us all different, "To dream of baboons and periwinkles."






Works Cited

All info on Stevens' life found at www.kirjasto.sci.fi/wsteven.htm








Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 10:01 am on May 10, 2007

Very insightful - I appreciated how you talked about the layers of meaning in the first poem - how the men could mean different things.

The dream poem was a little more difficult to understand. I think a critical article link might help to disect the poem even more - especially the references to the drunk sailor, the different colors of gowns, and the tiger. Maybe the author is saying that we don't just dream about random things like periwinkles and baboons, but that we dream of things we wish we were or weren't.

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