The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
I know it is turning spring-like in much of the country, but yesterday
Redford had snow.
But the real reason for posting Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man is that
it illustrates the use of music to accompany the recitation of poetry;
something I employ occasionally in my recordings. Adding existing music
to recitation often yields bad results when the two modes move against
each other, and cadences don’t line up. But when appropriate musical
works, or fragments thereof, are discovered, or new music composed for
the occasion, and the modes are in synch, uncanny effects can result.
The music here is from Claude Debussy’s Des Pas sur la Neige,
Footprints in the Snow, from his first book of preludes for piano.
I hope you enjoy it.
Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man is sometimes viewed as a depressing,
despairing work, but ought not be so.
Stevens believed that the mind was always interpreting reality,
projecting its own values into the world-at-large, as in religion,
romantic poetry, etc. Over time these interpretation fail to be
convincing to the mind and a new set of projections must be created.
This new way of looking at the world can only come about when the mind
tries to comprehend the world without illusions, which this poem tries
to do. A brisk, brusque, brittle, yet tranquil, sense of the world is
what then results.
Crossposted on Hoon’s website, http://innerlea.com.
More commentary here.