Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mini Poetry Tuesday: another Wallace Stevens

On the days I drive to UTown, no matter how many great post ideas I think of during the drive home, by the time I get here I'm too tired to type them up.  When I was doing Poetry Tuesdays, I would stop off at the computer lab before I left campus to write them.  But the last couple of weeks, I haven't had time to do that for one reason or another.

So I had most of a post written in my head tonight, but now I have no energy to type it out. But I also have nothing else to say.  So I will give you the short version of it, and we'll just have to hope it makes a bit of sense. 

There's a seriocomic Wallace Stevens poem called "Mrs. Alfred Uruguay" that I think represents the problem of becoming too politically correct.  Of course, Stevens was writing in the 1930s and 40s, well before the age of political correctness, so that's not exactly what he means.  But I think it applies.  ymmv, of course, and as always, there were many different interpretations among my classmates.

In the poem, Mrs. Alfred Uruguay has chosen elegance, beauty, and a dedicated search for truth over taking the easy road and following the crowd.  She climbs onto her donkey, and rides off alone, whispering in the donkey's ear, "I have said no / To everything, in order to get at myself. / I have wiped away moonlight like mud.  Your innocent ear / and I, if I rode naked, are what remain."  The people around her are indifferent ("So what said the others").

Her choice of becoming more aware and more "evolved" has given her particular tastes and opinions that mean she doesn't fit in with the everyday crowd anymore.  She and her donkey "approached the real, upon her mountain, / With lofty darkness...."  With her higher level of knowledge, she would never choose to espouse less enlightened opinions, or to be other than what she is:  "And for her, / To be, regardless of velvet, could never be more / Than to be, she could never differently be...."

But this same refinement of opinion has led her so far out that she can no longer participate in the normal life of human beings:  "Her no and no made yes impossible."  She can no longer appreciate the joys and sorrows of ordinary life.

Another rider on a horse clatters by her, going downhill at great speed as she carefully climbs.  "Whose horse clattered on the road on which she rose, / As it descended, blind to her velvet and / The moonlight?"  He is less refined than she, and he is rushing downward toward human society, "arrogant of his streaming forces, / ...Rushing from what was real...," while she is determinedly moving away toward the lonely spiritual heights.  We are told twice that the horseman is "poorly dressed" and three times that he is "capable."  He is the "eventual victor" because he is capable of creating in his mind "The ultimate elegance:  the imagined land."

I think the two riders represent extremes.  She misses out on the joy of the ordinary; he is arrogant and blind, and fully immersed in the illusion of reality created by following the crowd.  Somewhere in the middle is a place that takes a great deal of thought and care.  It seems to me that we need to determine what is important to us, and stick to those values because they are important to us, not because of any perceived sense of moral or personal superiority.  And also not in a way that is separatist, that requires only being able to hang out with people who share your opinions.

AlphaBetty said this in a much more interesting way in the Bettyverse yesterday. I'm afraid this is all I'm capable of tonight. :-)  See ya tomorrow.  which is the LAST DAY of NaBloPoMo.  Phew.  Julie the every-day-blogger has my eternal admiration.


  1. And I was going to say that YOU said it better than I did. (Dan's home for his weekend, so I'm behind at the 'verse again.)

    Lol, thanks. Some days may not be worth reading though. ;)

  2. I know, all three of us were thinking about this sort of stuff this week, in slightly different ways. It makes a good set of posts, I think. funny how the same topic seems to come up across blogs practically spontaneously. It's enough to make you believe in hive mind.

    I was so tired I left out my example, which is recycling. Recycling is important to me, and fortunately also to Dean since there is no community recycling around here, so you have to do it yourself. It's a lot of work. But it just feels right to me to do it. Let's see... add more crap to a landfill, or turn it back into something usable? It's a no-brainer. We put in the effort. But I'm trying not to have any kind of moral superiority attached to it, or any need to compel others to do the same. We just do it because it's important to us. That's all.