On Reading Wallace Stevens with Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary
Poetic allusion must be “recognizable not only to a coterie of poets and gentlemen scholars, but to a whole culture as well.”
My diction is ary
upon this Arête
I confess I am higher toned
Than your Old Christian Woman.
But in the end (when I descend)
A happy Rabbi in an unhappy world)
Humbled by your drow and ord of word
I look up:
Muzzy (my favorite: muddled and fuzzy?)
So I translate:
Poetry is the supreme fiction, Madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
The conscience is converted into palms
Like windy citherns
(Spellchecker rejects citherns;
demands citterns, Renaissance guitar)
hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take
The opposing law and make a peristyle
(Which I guess is an Isaiah atrium
When the world becomes Temple.)
And from this peristyle project a masque
also danced to windy citherns?)
Beyond the planets. Thus our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began.
(And Sir Stevens
The fictive sound of one hand clapping
Is the supreme oriental fiction
Where words ascend and descend
So we give you the palm
To hear the sound of two.
Therefore, muzzy minds
And wizened widows, singing in a higher fictive
And a wink and a wink and no wince.)