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Wallace Stevens

(October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955 / Pennsylvania / United States)

Poem Written at Morning


A sunny day's complete Poussiniana
Divide it from itself. It is this or that
And it is not.
By metaphor you paint
A thing. Thus, the pineapple was a leather fruit,
A fruit for pewter, thorned and palmed and blue,
To be served by men of ice.
The senses paint
By metaphor. The juice was fragranter
Than wettest cinnamon. It was cribled pears
Dripping a morning sap.
The truth must be
That you do not see, you experience, you feel,
That the buxom eye brings merely its element
To the total thing, a shapeless giant forced
Upward.
Green were the curls upon that head.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Gary Witt (1/2/2007 10:58:00 AM)

    Poussiniana refers to the work of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) , a French painter in the neoclassical style. Among the works for which Poussin is famous is a series of four paintings representing each of the seasons. The Louvre’s website describes them as follows:

    'Each season is associated with a Biblical scene from the Old Testament and shows a particular time of day: Spring links the rebirth of nature to Adam and Eve in a morning landscape; Summer is characterized by the harvest and presents the story of Ruth and Boaz with the sun at its zenith; Autumn is evoked by the wine harvest and a late afternoon light showing grapes from Canaan; and, finally, Winter sets the scene of the Flood in a crepuscular light.' (See www.louvre.fr.)

    As a result, a “sunny day’s complete Poussiniana” could reference the four seasons “contained” in a single day. The time of day becomes a metaphor for the season. The metaphor divides the day “from itself.” Each time of day 'is' the season, but it also “is not.” The relationship is established, a truth is found, but the “identity” of the two is not true. 'Time of day' does not equal 'season.' The metaphor itself remains a fiction, all the while it establishes what is true, and allows us to comprehend that truth.

    Similarly, a pineapple is not made of leather. Nor is it blue, or actually served by men of ice. Each metaphor is a fiction, but each metaphor reveals a part of reality that is true. And, as Stevens says elsewhere, poetry is the supreme fiction. (See 'A High-Toned Old Christian Woman, ' or 'Notes on a Supreme Fiction.')

    So one does not merely “see” reality. One feels it, one experiences it. And one uses metaphor (and imagination) to understand it, even though reality may at times seem as foreign as a shapeless giant with green hair. (Report) Reply

  • Madhurii Ball (9/13/2005 4:36:00 PM)

    This poem makes the unreal, the weirdness, exoticness of the pineapple TRUE. The idea of 'men of ice' serving pineapple. The northerners who have something out of context, otherworldly, brings home the strange fruit. A metaphor for war weapons? Grenades, perhaps.. dunno. But this poem makes me think. Hard. (Report) Reply

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