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Two Figures in Dense Violet Light -- Wallace Stevens

Guest poem submitted by Cristina Gazzieri:
(Poem #459) Two Figures in Dense Violet Light
I had as lief be embraced by the portier of the hotel
As to get no more from the moonlight
Than your moist hand.

Be the voice of the night and Florida in my ear.
Use dasky words and dusky images.
Darken your speech.

Speak, even, as if I did not hear you speaking,
But spoke for you perfectly in my thoughts,
Conceiving words,

As the night conceives the sea-sound in silence,
And out of the droning sibilants makes
A serenade.

Say, puerile, that the buzzards crouch on the ridge-pole
and sleep with one eye watching the stars fall
Beyond Key West.

Say that the palms are clear in the total blue.
Are clear and are obscure; that it is night;
That the moon shines.
-- Wallace Stevens
As in a series of other poems by Stevens, this work is based on the suggestion
of a tangle of visual and auditory images. The main evocative picture is that of
a Florida night with its palms outlined by moonlight in a paradoxical silence of
sea sounds where a few more natural elements (the buzzards, falling stars)
contribute to the exotic, wild beauty of the scene. At least two themes develop
from this central scene. The first a theme of seduction, in which the poet
laments the detached attitude of his woman and encourages her to speak a truer
language; true to herself, even if not necessarily clearer, but personal,
creative, like a "serenade". The second theme - poetic creation - emerges from
the references to linguistic conception "Conceiving words" and to the lyrical
song, the "serenade". As often happens with Stevens the almost unique object of
his poetry seems to be poetry itself. He wrote: "Poetry becomes the subject
itself of the poem" and then again "the poem is the cry of the occasion/ Part of
the res itself and not about it". The poetry he advocates is, like his own,
"obscure" but "clear", sel referential and pleasantly dusky, apparently puerile
in its primary references, resounding with natural elements.

I particularly like the ironic, almost comic incipit, so different in tone from
the intensity of the rest of the poem.


28 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Alec Vierbuchen said...

*Below Key West. (The Palm at the End of the Mind, 85) (Harmonium, 107
[Under the title "Two Figues in Dense Violet Night"])

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the night, the time of the darkness, the time to make the move, the time that belong to all those who want love.

Anonymous said...

Think there's a typo in the first line: should be 'porter'.

Anonymous said...

the perils of the internet - it seems that just about every 'copy' of this poem currently on line is riddled with typos. I've yet to find an accurate version. Presumably too many people busy cutting and pasting/propagating existing errors rather than looking at a reliable source.

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this poem remind me my mother, she loved it and even used a part of it in letter she wrote before she died.

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Unknown said...

I love this poem, and there are several errors in your transcription.

Line 1: "porter," not "portier"
Line 5: "dusky," not "dasky"
Line 11: "their droning sibilants," not "the droning sibilants"
Line 14: "Below," not "Beyond"

Please make these corrections.

Jack Stewart said...

You also need to make these corrections:
sea-sounds (plural, not sea-sound)
Capitalize “And” in the fourteenth line
“clear in a total blue, ” (not clear in “the” total blue, and change the period to a comma)

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