Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

      by Wallace Stevens

 

I

Among twenty snowy mountains,

The only moving thing

Was the eye of the blackbird.

 

II

I was of three minds,

Like a tree

In which there are three blackbirds.

 

III

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.

It was a small part of the pantomime.

 

IV

A man and a woman

Are one.

A man and a woman and a blackbird

Are one.

 

V

I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of inflections

Or the beauty of innuendoes,

The blackbird whistling

Or just after.

 

VI

Icicles filled the long window

With barbaric glass.

The shadow of the blackbird

Crossed it, to and fro.

The mood

Traced in the shadow

An indecipherable cause.

 

VII

O thin men of Haddam,

Why do you imagine golden birds?

Do you not see how the blackbird

Walks around the feet

Of the women about you?

 

VIII

I know noble accents

And lucid, inescapable rhythms;

But I know, too,

That the blackbird is involved

In what I know.

 

IX

When the blackbird flew out of sight,

It marked the edge

Of one of many circles.

 

X

At the sight of blackbirds

Flying in a green light,

Even the bawds of euphony

Would cry out sharply.

 

XI

He rode over Connecticut

In a glass coach.

Once, a fear pierced him,

In that he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For blackbirds.

 

XII

The river is moving.

The blackbird must be flying.

 

XIII

It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The blackbird sat

In the cedar-limbs.

 

 

These thirteen poems have been installed on the “Wallace Stevens Walk” in Hartford, Connecticut, along the route where Stevens used to walk from his home to his office. See a map of the walk at the Wallace Stevens site. See also Edward Picots animation of Stevens poem. I also have a Stevens-inspired poem of my own titled Seventeen Ways of Looking at a Haiku (not yet published).

 

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