Wallace Stevens

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

The Death of a Soldier


Life contracts and death is expected,
As in season of autumn.
The soldier falls.

He does not become a three-days personage.
Imposing his separation,
Calling for pomp.

Death is absolute and without memorial,
As in a season of autumn,
When the wind stops,

When the wind stops and, over the heavens,
The clouds go, nevertheless,
In their direction.

Submitted: Monday, April 05, 2010

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  • Rookie Barry Middleton (11/17/2013 7:22:00 AM)

    The word contracts appears to be a verb saying life will inevitably be reduced, death is expected. But the word contract also evokes an agreement, life is a contract and the contract will expire. This might be especially true for a soldier. And time is also a contract that expires in autumn. So when a soldier dies - that's it.
    The three-day personage reminds me of Christ's resurrection on the third day. But Stevens is invoking this image to say this will not be the case with the dead soldier, there is no resurrection, no pomp.
    The third verse spells it out in plain English - death is absolute and without memorial, the world goes on, the wind stops but the world turns and the clouds move. (Report) Reply

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