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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Wallace Stevens: The World As Meditation

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In the Room: Edouard Vuillard, 1899, oil on cardboard, 52 x 79 cm (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

Is it Ulysses that approaches from the east,
The interminable adventurer? The trees are mended.
That winter is washed away. Someone is moving

On the horizon and lifting himself up above it.
A form of fire approaches the cretonnes of Penelope,
Whose mere savage presence awakens the world in which she dwells.

She has composed, so long, a self with which to welcome him,
Companion to his self for her, which she imagined,
Two in a deep-founded sheltering, friend and dear friend.

The trees had been mended, as an essential exercise
In an inhuman meditation, larger than her own.
No winds like dogs watched over her at night.

She wanted nothing he could not bring her by coming alone.
She wanted no fetchings. His arms would be her necklace
And her belt, the final fortune of their desire.

But was it Ulysses? Or was it only the warmth of the sun
On her pillow? The thought kept beating in her like her heart.
The two kept beating together. It was only day.

It was Ulysses and it was not. Yet they had met,
Friend and dear friend and a planet's encouragement.
The barbarous strength within her would never fail.

She would talk a little to herself as she combed her hair,
Repeating his name with its patient syllables,
Never forgetting him that kept coming constantly so near.

 

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955): The World As Meditation, 1952, from The Rock (1954)




The Piano: Edouard Vuillard, 1896, glue-based paint on canvas, 213 x 154 cm (Musée du Petit Palais, Paris)


Seated Female Nude: Georges Seurat, 1886-87, oil on panel, 25 x 16 cm (Musée d'Orsay, Paris)



Woman in Bath: Edgar Degas, 1883, pastel, 31 x 28 cm (Private collection)



Model from Behind: Georges Seurat, 1886-87, oil on panel, 25 x 16 cm (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) 



Interior (The Rape): Edgar Degas, 1868-69, oil on canvas, 81 x 114 cm (Museum of Art, Philadelphia)


Interior (The Rape): Edgar Degas, 1868-69, oil on canvas, 81 x 114 cm (Museum of Art, Philadelphia)


In Bed: Edouard Vuillard, 1891, oil on canvas, 73 x 93 cm (Musée d'Orsay, Paris)

3 comments:

Nin Andrews said...

Beautiful!

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yet another beautiful, late Stevens poem / meditation, coupled together with the interior mystery of these paintings --

The trees had been mended, as an essential exercise
In an inhuman meditation, larger than her own.

TC said...

Many thanks, Nin and Steve.

Interior mystery, yes.

"She would talk a little to herself as she combed her hair..."