Since we are poor, a warmth.

FINAL SOLILOQUY OF THE INTERIOR PARAMOUR

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one…
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

-Wallace Stevens

I discovered this poem on the blog Kingdom Poets, where the poet-blogger D.S. Martin wonders if Stevens ought even to be “mentioned in a blog about Christian poetry.” Martin also quotes a few speculative lines from a biographer of Stevens, as to the lifelong skeptic’s motives for receiving Christian baptism on his deathbed. I’d like to read more of what he wrote later in life, but the images and evocations of this poem are familiar enough to me to make me think that Wallace Stevens had truly tasted of the Kingdom of God, that Holy Spirit-quickened heart where Christ dwells, of which He spoke when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

St. Porphyrios said provocatively, “Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet.Father Stephen Freeman has quoted the saint when he writes about “what can drive us both to poetry as well as theology”:

“The reduction of the world and its ‘history’ are the tools of those who lack the imagination and patience to find the truth. The Fathers tell us to ‘pay attention.’ This is true with regard to the heart, but it is also true with regard to the world around us. Attention does not solve the mystery, but it at least acknowledges its presence and gives rise to enough wonder to make understanding possible at some point.”

“Evil is never creative. It is destructive and occasionally diverse in its activities. But creativity requires energy and commitment. Evil’s own entropy always reduces it to banality and boredom. It prefers prose: poetry is too much work.”

Fr. Stephen also quotes a poem from e.e. cummings, including the lines, “i do not know what it is about you… only something in me understands…”

The type of somethings that e.e. cummings refers to can’t be known intellectually, but they are the testimony of our own experience that “mystery is not only an aspect of the divine, but part of the nature of all reality. Everything is far more than it appears.”

I am eternally grateful to writers like Wallace Stevens who commit their strength of mind and length of days to sharing their glimpses of the mysterious reality behind the obvious,

…since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

6 thoughts on “Since we are poor, a warmth.

  1. I read this yesterday, it’s sheer beauty drawing it to me. I had to google Stevens and learn more about him, would love to read more of his poems. I am curious to know more about him. I kind of chuckled of your quote about evil preferring prose as poetry was too much work because I came late to loving poetry. Only by ignoring that it was a poem and instead reading it as if it was prose for years did I at last learn to love poetry, some of it.

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  2. Yes, a lot to ponder! I’ll start at the end: The e. e. cummings quote reminds me so much of The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis. And then, “the reduction of the world and its history are the tools of those who lack the imagination and patience to find the truth.” But these are the people who are increasingly wanting to control us in this country: the ones who want to stifle conversation, topple statues, smother anybody who thinks for themselves. As for the poem itself, the line, “we make a dwelling in the evening air” just caught my fancy so much! Imagine making one’s dwelling in the evening air – not even the morning, and certainly not the afternoon air. Only the evening air will do. 🙂

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    1. So much to think on here in this packed poem. I am especially drawn to the last line, “In which being there together is enough.” There is little of “enough” in our modern world.

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