Sunday Morning

“Divinity must live witin herself:/ Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;/ Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued/ Elations when the forest blooms” (23-26)

I found this poem to be incredibly beautiful, longing, passionate…Stevens describes things with such a vividness, “Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,/ And the green freedom of a cockatoo,” that even as I read about them I can grasp that vividness only for a moment in time. In the general introduction, it brought up the modernist idea of presenting readers with fragments; “fragments of myth or history, fragments of experience or perception, fragments of previous artisitc works” (1888). In Stevens’ poem these fragments come to life with repeated images of birds, trees and fruit, with the woman contemplating things far removed from those oranges and green cockatoo, with the “ring of men…Not as a god, but as a god might be,/ Naked among them…Their chant shall be the chant of paradise,/ Out of their blood, returning to the sky” (91, 94-97). I wonder if Stevens is perhaps entering into a discussion about the human experience and what it means to be human since science was increasingly encroaching on the importance of art (literature included). He asks, “Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be/ The blood of paradise? And shall the earth/ Seem all of paradise that we shall know?/ The sky will be much friendlier then than now,/ A part of labor and a part of pain,/ And next in glory to enduring love,/ Not this dividing and indifferent blue” (39-45). Here, it seems that he may be arguing that it is the human experience, human love, that makes a paradise out of an otherwise “dividing and indifferent” world. It is within ourselves that we may find a meaning, and that meaning is all the more sweet for death. “Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,/ Within whose burning bosom we devise/ Our earthly mother waiting, sleeplessly” (88-90). It seems to me that Stevens here is making a statement about how much more life means because of the fact that it is not eternal. We will die, and it is death which makes the “path sick sorrow took, the many paths/ Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love/ Whispered a little out of tenderness,” all the more meaningful.  There is nothing that will endure like the real world surrounding us, nothing will endure like our own experience, and perhaps…nothing will endure like the arts which strive to present these experiences.

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