top of page

Sunday Morning / Wallace Stevens

Updated: May 26, 2022

This long poem by the American modernist poet Wallace Stevens is one of my favourites. He was an interesting fellow. High-ranking insurance CEO by day, poet at night and as he walked to work. He would dictate his highly fantastical and colourful poems to his secretary when he arrived at the office.

On a hiking holiday in the Pyrenees, I took it upon myself to learn all eight 15-line stanzas by heart. Which, after a week, I did. Much to the admiration of my hiking buddy, Joshua, who is a wiz at memorising things.

The whole poem is a sumptuous masterpiece but this second stanza is particularly lovely, proffering as it does a very rich sense of spirituality. Not arid concepts of divinity but something much more sensual, seasonal and human.

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.

I particularly loved that line "gusty emotions on wet roads on autumn nights" - which is

spot-on but also "passions of rain, or moods in falling snow". So wonderful.

Try reading the poem out loud. Or better still, read the whole thing here.

247 views12 comments

Related Posts

See All
bottom of page