8.26.2004

Excerpts from "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" by Wallace Stevens

[Note to "Notes": Find the complete poem here, but preferably if you consider yourself a poet or a creature of culture, you must purchase a copy of the whole harmonium.]

Do I press the extremest book of the wisest man,
Close to me, hidden in day and night?
In the uncertain light of single, certain truth,
Equal in living changingness to the light
In which I meet you, in which we sit at rest,
For a moment in the central of our being....

It Must Be Abstract

I

Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.

You must become an ignorant man again
And see the sun again with an ignorant eye
And see it clearly in the idea of it....

II

But the priest desires. The philosopher desires.

And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle....

III

The poem refreshes so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea... It satisfies
Belief in an immaculate beginning

And sends us, winged by an unconscious will,
To an immaculate end....

Beating in the heart, as if blood newly came,

An elixir, an excitation, a pure power.
The power, through candor, brings back a power again....

Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation....

IV

We are the mimics....

Abysmal instruments make sounds like pips
Of the sweeping meanings that we add to them.

V

These are the heroic children whom time breeds
Against the first idea--to lash the lion,
Caparison elephants, teach bears to juggle.

VI

Not to be realized because not to
Be seen...

Without a name and nothing to be desired
If only imagined but imagined well....

It must be visible or invisible
Invisible or visible or both:
A seeing and unseeing in the eye....

An abstraction blooded, as a man by thought.

VII

not balances
That we achieve but balances that happen....

Perhaps there are moments of awakening,
Extreme, fortuitous, personal, in which

We more than awaken....

VIII

reading in the sound,
About the thinker of the first idea,
He might take habit...

moving in on him,
Of greater aptitude and apprehension...

As if the language suddenly, with ease,
Said things it had laboriously spoken.

X

The major abstraction is the idea of man....

What chieftain, walking by himself, crying
Most miserable, most victorious,

Does not see these separate figures, one by one,
And yet see only one...

Looking for what was, where it used to be?
...It is he.

It Must Change

...

It Must Give Pleasure

...
discuss this post at our messageboard