Dance of the Macabre Mice

November 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the land of turkeys in turkey weather
At the base of the statue, we go round and round.
What a beautiful history, beautiful surprise!
Monsieur is on horseback. The horse is covered with mice.

This dance has no name. It is a hungry dance.
We dance it out to the tip of Monsieur’s sword,
Reading the lordly language of the inscription,
Which is like zithers and tambourines combined:

The Founder of the State. Whoever founded
A state that was free, in the dead of winter, from mice?
What a beautiful tableau tinted and towering,
The arm of bronze outstretched against all evil!

– Wallace Stevens

An autumnal anecdote accounting an ambulatory adventure across ancient armaments augurs an auspicious ascendency: agile animals above anthropoid autocrats (America).

Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

March 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were they hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

– Wallace Stevens

Stevens excelled at titles and this one says a lot. Let’s take it bit by bit.

Tea places the scene in Asia. Tea leaves are endemic to that continent, and they relate to calmness and meditation which one associates with Eastern religions.

The palaz is a palace. It seems that Stevens is rejecting more popular religious beliefs, the hymns and anointments of Christianity, for instance, for a solipsistic approach to spirituality (“I was the world in which I walked…”) in which he builds his own spiritual structure.

Hoon sounds like a vaguely Eastern deity or philosopher, and there is the sense of Stevens tapping into the Tao as he navigates his noösphere (“and there I found myself truly and more strange”).

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