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Short poem

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

              1Among twenty snowy mountains,
              2The only moving thing
              3Was the eye of the black bird.

              4I was of three minds,
              5Like a tree
              6In which there are three blackbirds.

              7The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
              8It was a small part of the pantomime.

              9A man and a woman
            10Are one.
            11A man and a woman and a blackbird
            12Are one.

            13I do not know which to prefer,
            14The beauty of inflections
            15Or the beauty of innuendoes,
            16The blackbird whistling
            17Or just after.

            18Icicles filled the long window
            19With barbaric glass.
            20The shadow of the blackbird
            21Crossed it, to and fro.
            22The mood
            23Traced in the shadow
            24An indecipherable cause.

            25O thin men of Haddam,
            26Why do you imagine golden birds?
            27Do you not see how the blackbird
            28Walks around the feet
            29Of the women about you?

            30I know noble accents
            31And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
            32But I know, too,
            33That the blackbird is involved
            34In what I know.

            35When the blackbird flew out of sight,
            36It marked the edge
            37Of one of many circles.

            38At the sight of blackbirds
            39Flying in a green light,
            40Even the bawds of euphony
            41Would cry out sharply.

            42He rode over Connecticut
            43In a glass coach.
            44Once, a fear pierced him,
            45In that he mistook
            46The shadow of his equipage
            47For blackbirds.

            48The river is moving.
            49The blackbird must be flying.

            50It was evening all afternoon.
            51It was snowing
            52And it was going to snow.
            53The blackbird sat
            54In the cedar-limbs.


1] In a letter to L. W. Payne, Jr., Stevens patiently explained that the poem dealt with sense experiences or "sensations" (Letters, 251).

25] Haddam: a town in Connecticut whose men may have dug once for gold but whose distinctively "Yankee"-sounding name accounted for its use here (Letters, 251, 786).

40] bawds of euphony: evidently, literary critics, those who make money off other men's enjoyment of harmony (Letters, 340).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Harmonium (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, [September 7], 1923): 135-37. York University Library Special Collections 734
First publication date: December 1917
Publication date note: Others (Dec. 1917): 109-11
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Form note: unrhyming, variable-length lines in verse paragraphs with different numbers of lines

Other poems by Wallace Stevens