“Invective against Swans”(1923) -By Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

The soul, O ganders, flies beyond the parks
And far beyond the discords of the wind.

A bronze rain from the sun descending marks
The death of summer, which that time endures

Like one who scrawls a listless testament
Of golden quirks and Paphian caricatures,

Bequeathing your white feathers to the moon
And giving your bland motions to the air.

Behold, already on the long parades
The crows anoint the statues with their dirt.

And the soul, O ganders, being lonely, flies
Beyond your chilly chariots, to the skies.

First of all the poem is certainly not an invective nor is it against swans.The poet has nothing against swans, only against swans written about ,ad nauseam, in Victorian literature invoking classical Hellenic symbols. The soul seems to have some connection to the swans., especially lovers’ souls, which between themselves, are platonically connected. In metaphysical poetry ,souls are invoked frequently to emphasize the permanence of love , their victory over the ephemerality of a purely physical union.

The swans are here just ganders. males of geese, not unduly worried about union of souls but just getting on in the sky, beyond the parks and the turbulence of the wind. Their union is much more mundane and takes place uneventfully in the slush of a marshy lake. No doubt the soul moves ahead of them.

A bronze rain from the sun marks the death of summer. Its golden quirks and Pamphian caricatures promptly bequeath the swan’s white feathers to the moon who will come only much later in the night. The swans’ bland motions will be noticed only when the moonlight comes, not till then.

As of now ,the soul , being lonely and full of ennui, has focused its entire energies on flying in the sky and the ganders will have a hard time catching up with it.

Love the leg-pulling of contemporary poets that the poet seems to be indulging in.

The line on crows anointing statues with their dirt is hilarious!

Behold, already on the long parades
The crows anoint the statues with their dirt.

“Carnal apple,Woman filled, Burning moon”- By Pablo Neruda

By Pablo Neruda

Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
Love is a war of lightning,
and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
slips through the narrow channels of blood
to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
to be, and be nothing but light in the dark.

A more sensual poem one cannot find , so much filled with fascinating visual and tactile imagery. “Apple” is highly suggestive, the forbidden apple. A body’s apple, a woman-filled, a burning moon. “Carnal” , a body adjective has its biblical associations. The smell of sea-weed is an olfactory throwback to the green sea from where we had all come. Secret knowledge is clasped between her two pillars, the mysteries of love’s creation. Mark the word clasped, suggesting the strong holding together of her thighs before they are loosened for love. Man touches the primal night with his senses. Love is a journey through the waters and stars, through sharp tempests of grain.Love is a war of lightning .

The most delicious line is “two bodies ruined by a single sweetness” .Bodies ruined because love leaves a heavy toll on them. A common sweetness that destroys the integrity of the individual bodies and lumps them together into a single ecstatic experience.

“Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity” is exquisite.Tiny infinity suggests a tiny space that contains infinity,with her margins, her rivers,her diminutive villages. Her body is infinite space that is astronomer’s delight, an explorer’s passion. An explosion occurs and is transmitted through the narrow blood channels to precipitate a light in the dark.

..and thereby hangs a tale


A fool, a fool! I met a fool in the forest,
A motley fool; a miserable world!
As I do live by food, I met a fool
Who laid him down and bask’d him in the sun,
And rail’d on Lady Fortune in good terms,
In good set terms and, yet, a motley fool.
‘Good morrow, fool,’ quoth I. ‘No, sir,’ quoth he,
‘Call me not fool till heaven hath sent me fortune:’
And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And, looking on it with lack-lustre eye,
Says very wisely, ‘It is ten o’clock:
Thus we may see,’ quoth he, ‘how the world wags:
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ’twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’ When I did hear
The motley fool thus moral on the time,
My lungs began to crow like chanticleer,
That fools should be so deep-contemplative,
And I did laugh sans intermission
An hour by his dial. O noble fool!
A worthy fool! Motley’s the only wear.

(Shakespeare’s As You Like It)

Jaques the melancholic said this to the woodsmen in Shakespeare’s As You like It , a monologue reflecting his own deep down melancholy, an attitude he has cultivated out of philosophical pretensions. Jaques the melancholic sees sorrow everywhere, a miserable world ,where the clock marks hour to hour as you ripe and ripe and then you rot and rot on your way to the dusty death.

The tale that hangs thereby is not merely the hours marking our time because there is no tale in a routine passage of time. The motley fool is trying to make a tale out of the inconsequential passing of time.He basks in the sun and waits for lady Fortune to smile and asks not to be called the Fool till she sends down his fortune. That is because the Fool is indeed a wise man who knows lady Fortune will not send any such thing. He therefore takes out a dial from poke and observes its hours to pontificate about life, how the world wags. Fools are indeed deep and contemplative.

But the tale actually hangs by the melancholic laughing an hour without intermission, an hour by the Fool’s clock. His admiration for the fool increases as he looks at the motley colors of the Fool’s dress and calls him a noble fool. The Fool is not joker wearing a motley dress for the amusement of the King and his nobles. Here is a noble Fool, who is wiser than many of the King’s nobles. Thereby hangs the tale.