Friday, January 29, 2010

United Dames of America / Wallace Stevens

United Dames of America

Je tache, en restant exact, d'être poète.
                            - JULES RENARD

There are not leaves enough to cover the face
It wears. This is the way the orator spoke:
"The mass is nothing. The number of men in a mass
Of men is nothing. The mass is no greater than

The singular man in a mass. Masses produce
Each one its paradigm." There are not leaves
Enough to hide away the face of the man
Of this dead mass and that. The wind might fill

With faces as with leaves, be gusty with mouths,
And with mouths crying and crying day by day.
Could all these be ourselves, sounding ourselves,
Our faces circling round a central face

And then nowhere again, away and away?
Yet one face keeps returning (never the one),
The face of the man of the mass, never the face
That hermit on reef sable would have seen,

Never the naked politician taught
By the wise. There are not enough leaves to crown,
To cover, to crown, to cover -- let it go --
The actor that will at last declaim our end.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)1937
from Parts of a World, 1942

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada]

Wallace Stevens biography

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