(Poem #154) Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
The houses are haunted By white night-gowns. None are green, Or purple with green rings, Or green with yellow rings, Or yellow with blue rings. None of them are strange, With socks of lace And beaded ceintures. People are not going To dream of baboons and periwinkles. Only, here and there, an old sailor, Drunk and asleep in his boots, Catches tigers In red weather.
A carefully constructed, tightly orchestrated poem - its final five words, though, are no less revelatory for having been skilfully led up to . The tone is surprisingly matter-of-fact when you consider the theme of the poem - the lack of Romance (with a capital R) in our lives. But this isn't completely unexpected; rather, it's in keeping with Stevens' theory that the poet should transcribe "not ideas about the thing but the thing itself" . Thus the words, though poignant in their implications, are not in themselves sad, nor (even worse!) pitying - they just _are_. A note on construction: the repetition of form in lines four through six serves to build up a dreamy, almost hypnotic effect, while the colours themselves are evocative of the mood Stevens wishes to create. The deliberately archaic word 'ceintures' adds to the romance-of-the-ages thingy, while the sudden multisyllables - 'baboons and periwinkles' - make for an increased complexity of sound and meaning. The final clause - 'catches tigers in red weather' - suddenly brings the dream vividly to life; the unexpected adjective simply emphasizes the energy of the action. thomas.  There! Not just one, but two prepositions to end the sentence with. Been proud of me, Yoda would have :-).  The title of another of Stevens' poems [Glossary] "ceinture" Pronunciation: san(n)-'tyur, -'tur, 'san-cher Function: noun Etymology: Middle English seynture, from Middle French ceinture, from Latin cinctura Date: 15th century : a belt or sash for the waist related to "cincture" Pronunciation: 'si[ng](k)-cher Function: noun Etymology: Latin cinctura, girdle, from cinctus, past participle of cingere, to gird; probably akin to Sanskrit kaanchi, girdle Date: 1600 1 : the act of encircling 2a : an encircling area 2b : a girdle or belt, especially a cord or sash of cloth worn around an ecclesiastical vestment -- from Merriam-Webster Online, http://www.m-w.com/ [Biography, filched from the Web] Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on October 2, 1879, and died in Hartford, Connecticut, on August 2, 1955, Stevens attended Harvard University for three years, then studied law at the New York Law School, receiving his degree in 1903. In 1904 he was admitted to the New York Bar and began to practise in New York City. From 1916 to his death he was associated with the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, of which he became vice president in 1934. Although Stevens contributed to the Harvard Advocate while in college, he did not gain recognition until four of his poems appearing in a special 1914 wartime issue of Poetry, won a prize. Stevens would go on to publish a one act play, Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise, for which he would receive another prize, and eight volumes of poetry and essays, with a ninth seeing publication posthumously. Despite his death and subsequent decomposition, Stevens is still the only lawyer I would welcome in my home... -- Roderick Scott Greene (whoever he is) [Just a quote] "...imagination is the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in chaos. It does this every day in arts and letters." -- Wallace Stevens