Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Wallace Stevens

American Modernist Poet and Insurance Executive

"Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream."

"Lenin on a bench beside a lake disturbed the swans. He was not the man for swans."

"Let us erect in the basin a lofty fountain. Suckled on ponds, the spirit craves a watery mountain."

"Life contracts and death is expected, as in a season of autumn. The soldier falls."

"Life's nonsense pierces us with strange relation."

"Mon dieu, hear the poet's prayer. The romantic should be here. The romantic should be there. It ought to be everywhere. But the romantic must never remain. Mon dieu, and must never again return."

"Most modern reproducers of life, even including the camera, really repudiate it. We gulp down evil, choke at good."

"Money is a kind of poetry."

"Most people read poetry listening for echoes because the echoes are familiar to them. They wade through it the way a boy wades through water, feeling with his toes for the bottom: The echoes are the bottom."

"Mother of heaven, regina of the clouds, o sceptre of the sun, crown of the moon, there is not nothing, no, no, never nothing, like the clashed edges of two words that kill."

"Music is feeling, then, not sound; and thus it is that what I feel, here in this room, desiring you."

"My beards, attend to the laughter of evil: the fierce ricanery with the ferocious chu-chot-chu between, the sobs for breath to laugh the louder, the deeper gasps uplifting the completest rhetoric of sneers."

"My solitaria are the meditations of a central mind. I hear the motions of the spirit and the sound of what is secret becomes, for me, a voice that is my own voice speaking in my ear."

"My titillations have no foot-notes and their memorials are the phrases of idiosyncratic music."

"My father's father, his father's father, his— shadows like winds go back to a parent before thought, before speech, at the head of the past."

"Next to love is the desire for love."

"Natives of poverty, children of Malheur, the gaiety of language is our seigneur."

"New York is a field of tireless and antagonistic interests undoubtedly fascinating but horribly unreal. Everybody is looking at everybody else a foolish crowd walking on mirrors."

"No self in the mass: the braver being, the body that could never be wounded, the life that never would end, no matter who died, the being that was an abstraction."

"No thread of cloudy silver sprinkles in your gown its venom of renown, and on your head no crown is simpler than the simple hair."

"Nothing could be more inappropriate to American literature than its English source since the Americans are not British in sensibility."

"Of a green evening, clear and warm, she bathed in her still garden, while the red-eyed elders watching, felt the basses of their beings throb in witching chords, and their thin blood pulse pizzicati of Hosanna."

"Now, the wry Rosenbloom is dead and his finical carriers tread, on a hundred legs, the tread of the dead. Rosenbloom is dead."

"Nota: man is the intelligence of his soil, the sovereign ghost. As such, the Socrates of snails, musician of pears, principium and lex. Sed quæritur: is this same wig of things, this nincompated pedagogue, preceptor to the sea?"

"Of what is real I say, is it the old, the roseate parent or the bride come jingling, kissed and cupped, or else the spirit and all ensigns of the self?"

"One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs of the pine-trees crusted with snow;"

"One must read poetry with one's nerves."

"One ought not to hoard culture. It should be adapted and infused into society as a leaven. Liberality of culture does not mean illiberality of its benefits."

"One poem proves another and the whole, for the clairvoyant men that need no proof: the lover, the believer and the poet. Their words are chosen out of their desire, the joy of language, when it is themselves."

"One sparrow is worth a thousand gulls, when it sings. The gull sits on chimney-tops. He mocks the guinea, challenges the crow, inciting various modes. The sparrow requites one, without intent."

"On a few words of what is real in the world I nourish myself. I defend myself against whatever remains."

"Once it was, the repose of night, was a place, strong place, in which to sleep. It is shaken now. It will burst into flames, either now or tomorrow or the day after that."

"Oh, Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,"

"One cannot spend one's time in being modern when there are so many more important things to be."

"One is not a duchess a hundred yards from a carriage."

"One's ignorance is one's chief asset."

"Only last year he said that the naked moon was not the moon he used to see, to feel (in the pale coherences of moon and mood when he was young), naked and alien, more leanly shining from a lankier sky. Its ruddy pallor had grown cadaverous."

"Only the rich remember the past, the strawberries once in the Apennines, Philadelphia that the spiders ate."

"Only, here and there, an old sailor, drunk and asleep in his boots, catches tigers in red weather."

"Our bloom is gone. We are the fruit thereof."

"Our sense of these things changes and they change, not as in metaphor, but in our sense of them. So sense exceeds all metaphor. It exceeds the heavy changes of the light. It is like a flow of meanings with no speech and of as many meanings as of men."

"Out of the first warmth of spring, and out of the shine of the menlocks, among the bare and crooked trees, she found a helping from the cold, like a meaning in nothingness."

"Out of the window, I saw how the planets gathered like the leaves themselves turning in the wind."

"Panache upon panache, his tails deploy upward and outward, in green-vented forms, His tip a drop of water full of storms."

"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."

"People should like poetry the way a child likes snow, and they would if poets wrote it."

"People fall out of windows, trees tumble down, summer is changed to winter, the young grow old the air is full of children, statues, roofs and snow. The theatre is spinning round, colliding with deaf-mute churches and optical trains. The most massive sopranos are singing songs of scales."

"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake."

"Panoramas are not what they used to be. Claude has been dead a long time and apostrophes are forbidden on the funicular. Marx has ruined nature, for the moment."

"Perhaps it is of more value to infuriate philosophers than to go along with them."