“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.

John Donne’s “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls /It tolls for thee”

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

These famous words by John Donne were not originally written as a poem – the passage is taken from the 1624 Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is prose.

“If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less”-a beautiful image .A clod is an unimportant thing,usually meaning a stupid person,an unworthy man.Even if a man who has not made any mark on the world dies ,Europe,the whole continent is the less as much as it would be the less if a promontory is lost . As if the manner of your own or your friends is lost. Each man’s death diminishes me because I am not an island but part of the continent and if a part of the continent is lost a part of me is lost.

In a village if the church bell rings to announce the death of a person the usual question asked is “who is the person ” and the poet says do not ask the question because it does not really matter for whom the bell tolls. When anybody dies a part of you dies and the bell is tolling for you.