Note on Moonlight

by Wallace Stevens
Note on Moonlight

The one moonlight, in the simple-colored night,
Like a plain poet revolving in his mind
The sameness of his various universe,
Shines on the mere objectiveness of things.
.
It is as if being was to be observed,
As if, among the possible purposes
Of what one sees, the purpose that comes first,
The surface, is the purpose to be seen,
.
The property of the moon, what it evokes.
It is to disclose the essential presence, say,
Of a mountain, expanded and elevated almost
Into a sense, an object the less; or else
.
To disclose in the figure waiting on the road
An object the more, an undetermined form
Between the slouchings of a gunman and a lover,
A gesture in the dark, a fear one feels
.
In the great vistas of night air, that takes this form,
In the arbors that are as if of Saturn-star.
So, then, this warm, wide, weatherless quietude
Is active with a power, an inherent life,
.
In spite of the mere objectiveness of things,
Like a cloud-cap in the corner of a looking-glass,
A change of color in the plain poet's mind,
Night and silence disturbed by an interior sound.
.
The one moonlight, the various universe, intended
So much just to be seen --- a purpose, empty
Perhaps, absurd perhaps, but at least a purpose,
Certain and ever more fresh. Ah! Certain, for
       sure...
_____________________________

Cf. the lines from stanza six in Wallace’s poem:
.
In spite of the mere objectiveness of things,
Like a cloud-cap in the corner of a looking-glass,
A change of color in the plain poet’s mind,
Night and silence disturbed by an interior sound.
.
with these lines from Prospero’s ‘revels’ speech in Act IV of The Tempest:
.
like the baseless fabric of this vision –
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

.
Listen to Richard Burton read Prospero’s ‘revels’ speech
.
A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date. “Note on Moonlight” is one of Graeme’s choices to read.

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