by: Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)


      UST as my fingers on these keys
      Make music, so the self-same sounds
      On my spirit make a music, too.
      Music is feeling, then, not sound;
      And thus it is that what I feel,
      Here in this room, desiring you,
      Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
      Is music. It is like the strain
      Waked in the elders by Susanna:
      Of a green evening, clear and warm,
      She bathed in her still garden, while
      The red-eyed elders, watching, felt
      The basses of their beings throb
      In witching chords, and their thin blood
      Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna.
      In the green water, clear and warm,
      Susanna lay.
      She searched
      The torch of Springs,
      And found
      Concealed imaginings.
      She sighed,
      For so much melody.
      Upon the bank, she stood
      In the cool
      Of spent emotions.
      She felt, among the leaves,
      The dew
      Of old devotions.
      She walked upon the grass,
      Still quavering.
      The winds were like her maids,
      On timid feet,
      Fetching her woven scarves,
      Yet wavering.
      A breath upon her hand
      Muted the night.
      She turned--
      A cymbal crashed,
      And roaring horns.
      Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
      Came her attendant Byzantines.
      They wondered why Susanna cried
      Against the elders by her side;
      And as they whispered, the refrain
      Was like a willow swept by rain.
      Anon, their lamps' uplifted flame
      Revealed Susanna and her shame.
      And then, the simpering Byzantines,
      Fled, with a noise like tambourines.
      Beauty is momentary in the mind --
      The fitful tracing of a portal;
      But in the flesh it is immortal.
      The body dies; the body's beauty lives,
      So evenings die, in their green going,
      A wave, interminably flowing.
      So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
      The cowl of Winter, done repenting.
      So maidens die, to the auroral
      Celebration of a maiden's choral.
      Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings
      Of those white elders; but, escaping,
      Left only Death's ironic scrapings.
      Now, in its immortality, it plays
      On the clear viol of her memory,
      And makes a constant sacrament of praise.

"Peter Quince at the Clavier" is reprinted from Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, August 1915.




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