Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wallace Stevens: The House was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the evening, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm.  The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
is he reader leaning late and reading there.

-- Wallace Stevens --

Another title for this poem could be "Meditations on Reading."  Or, perhaps that could be a subtitle for I really don't want to give up the title for it fits the poem so well, for when I am reading, the house is quiet, regardless of how noisy it may really be, and the world is calm, in spite of the daily headlines.  The title flows as do the words on the page.

This poem best describes the act of reading, as least as far as I am concerned.   The flowing into a union of the reader, the writer, the ideas/words, and the night convey what I experience when I look back at a time when I was absorbed in a book.  I am somewhere else and only partially me.   To say I am only reading words on a page is true, but only partially true.  It is not the whole truth.  Emily Dickinson said some thing very similar when she wrote, "There is no frigate like a book/To take us Lands away."

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