The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm

July 12, 2007 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Wallace Stevens

Listen (to Hoon read)

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 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 meaning, 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 the reader leaning late and reading there.

Hoon adds,

The poem is from Steven’s TRANSPORT TO SUMMER (1947). He was 67
when it published.

For me it is remarkable how similar in mood this poem and music are. One thinks of Steven’s affection for the tropics and his love of the guitar, which he himself played. I don’t know if he played classical or not; or listened to Segovia who championed Ponce’s work and made recordings as early as 1927, but it’s nice to imagine that he had. The poem is in iambic pentameter, and though formatted as couplets makes more sense as verses of 4,5, 3, and 4 lines respectively. …The truth in a calm world,/ In which there is no other meaning, itself/ Is calm,
In this line it seems that Stevens, who was an atheist, is trying to demonstrate to the mind that requires a belief in a God-head, that the universe viewed from a non-believing point-of-view, is not necessarily chaotic; or at least has its own moments of meditation and quietude, that are as perhaps profound as those discovered by the believer. As in The Place of the Solitaire, and The Snow Man, the state of the mind is wonderfully reflected in the way the external world itself is presented to it. (Yes the guitarist is non-other than hoon).

(The music is of the Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce (1882 – 1948), his Prelude No. 6 for guitar of 1930.)



Entry filed under: Black Mamba, English, Hoon (, Wallace Stevens.

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