Thursday, December 01, 2011

Lawyer-Poet, Nay Poet-Lawyer Wallace Stevens: of "Moral Law" & "The Opposing Law"

A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

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 hankering for hymns. 
We agree in principle. That's clear. But take 
The opposing law and make a peristyle, 
And from the peristyle project a masque 
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. Allow, 
Therefore, that in the planetary scene 
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed, 
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade, 
Proud of such novelties of the sublime, 
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk, 
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves 
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres. 
This will make widows wince. But fictive things 
Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.

Wallace Stevens

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