Poetry And Art. Stevens Poem “Anecdote Of The Jar” Essay Example

Wallace Stevens’, The Palm at the End of the Mind, is a collection of his selected poems and a play. By examining the transformative nature of Stevens’ poetry, we can see that Stevens is arguing that poetry and art has the power to change and reveal the world.

Stevens describes in his poem, “Anecdote of the Jar”, the power human presence has in the world. The opening stanza establishes the jar in relation to the wilderness. Stevens writes, “I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill. It made the slovenly wilderness Surround that hill.”. The introduction of this human artifact, the “jar”, to nature, creates a point of contrast and comparison between man and nature. The “jar” represents man, as it is a man-made creation, and the “hill”, the “slovenly wilderness”, represents nature. The wildness of nature, of the earth, is shown when compared or contrasted to the jar. Nature is “slovenly” and “wild”. The jar is “gray and bare”. Stevens describes how the placement of this jar upon the hill, transforms nature, how it transforms the world around it.

Stevens is essentially saying that the wilderness is the wilderness until we, humans, enter it. Human presence in the world, changes the natural world. Stevens describes that “The wilderness rose up to [the jar], And sprawled around, no longer wild.” The unnatural presence of the jar in this natural setting, makes the setting no longer natural. It is “no longer wild”. Nature is overcome and changed forever because of human presence. Stevens further demonstrates how humans take over everything by describing how the jar interacts with nature. The jar “took dominion everywhere”. The use of the word “dominion” describes the influencing power the jar has over its surrounding, over nature. As the jar in this poem is meant to represent humans, Stevens is revealing that humans have that power over nature, the power to change the natural world.

In “The Poems of Our Climate”, Stevens describes a bowl of flowers. Seemingly simple as his description of a jar upon hill, Stevens poetry is in fact revealing human truths of the world. The first stanza describes the bowl of flowers and its surroundings. It is a simple setting, perfect in nature, and Stevens uses it to establish humanity’s act of simplifying things. “Clear water in a brilliant bowl, Pink and white carnations. The light In the room more like a snowy air, Reflecting snow. […] Pink and white carnations – one desires So much more than that. The day itself Is simplified: a bowl of white, Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round, With nothing more than the carnations there.”. It is a perfect and simple scene, however, Stevens description of the bowl, as “white” and “cold”, and surrounded by “snow”, implies a sense of numbness. It is a cold and unpassionate setting. When one simplifies life, making it easier to understand and easier to experience, a seemingly perfect life, one’s life becomes cold and unpassionate. A simple life strips one of passion and numbs them to experiences. The poet is saying that this perfect setting of “Pink and white carnations” is lacking in dimension. That humans need “So much more than that”. Stevens goes into detail that simplicity is not enough in the second stanza.

In the second stanza Stevens describes why humans would want to live a life of simplicity, “Say even that this complete simplicity Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed The evilly compounded, vital I And made it fresh in a world of white, A world of clear water, brilliant-edged”. Stevens is saying in these lines that living a simple life would make life itself simple. By virtue of simplification, the complexity, the difficulties and the stresses of life would be reduced as well. One could essentially be “Stripped […] of all one’s torments”, and that “The evilly compounded, vital I” could be made “fresh in a world of white”. The “I”, is human beings. Human beings are complex, they are “compounded”. Stevens is stating here that “evil” is “compounded”, that evil is complex, in other words that what is good is simple. So, if humans want to live good, they simply have to live simple lives.

A life of “complete simplicity” allows humans to be made “fresh” into “a world of white, A world of clear water, brilliant-edged”. A “world” with a simple setting similar to the “cold” “clear” and “white” setting of the “Pink and white carnations.” Stevens ends the second stanza by stating, however, that “Still one would want more, one would need more, More than a world of white and snowy scents.” He is stating that humans need more in life. That “complete simplicity” is not enough. That humans need complexity, they need passion, they need color. That these complex parts of life are also vital parts of life.

In the third and final stanza, Stevens describes what kind of complex life humans need. Humans need an “imperfect” life, he states that “The imperfect is our paradise”. We humans are imperfect, we are composed of “flawed words and stubborn sounds”. Since the “imperfect” is human, Stevens is saying that the perfect is inhuman. Perfection implies the end of things. There is no space for alterations, modifications, or deviations. Perfection no longer needs human interaction. The imperfect calls us in, it invites our participation, that there remains work to be done. Stevens states, “There would still remain the never-resting mind”. Humans never rest, are never satisfied, are always thinking. The imperfection suggests the idea of an active life, “Note that, in this bitterness, delight”. The “bitterness”, the imperfect, invites us to participate, to live active lives, to interact with the world, to be a living, thinking, human being. To be a thinking, living being, to be “imperfect”, “is so hot in us”. It is what makes us humans, what gives us the passion in our lives. Perfection, the simple perfect scene of a bowl of pink and white carnations in stanza I, removes humans from the world. Where perfection lies, humans do not. A complicated life is met with imperfections, but the opposite strips us of life.

Stevens’ poetry strives to point us outside his poems. Whether they be showing the relationship between humans and nature, the imperfect versus the perfect, Stevens’ poetry goes beyond to reveal to us the world. Stevens’ poetry also shows us the transformative power poetry and art has on the world. The poem, “The Idea of Order at Key West”, explores this idea of art transforming the world around you.

“The Idea of Order at Key West” (97) describes a poet and his friend listening to a woman sing. Listening to her singing has a profound effect on the poet and his friend. The poet states that “It was her voice that made The sky acutest at its vanishing.”. It is the woman’s “voice” that so affects the poet and his friend, her voice makes the “sky acutest”. Their view on the sky has changed. It has become more acute, more intense. The “vanishing” of the sky, which would be the horizon, implies that they don’t see the world as it once was. That line is blurred. Their outlook on the world has “vanished”.

In the sixth stanza after having listened to the woman, the poet asks his friend, “Ramon Fernandez, tell me why, if you know, Why, when the singing ended and we turned Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights, The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there, As the night descended, tilting in the air, Mastered the night and portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles, Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.” With this stanza, Stevens is showing that art, the woman’s singing, has changed the world around them. The poet and Roman’s outlook on the world has changed after “the singing ended”. The poet describes how the “glassy lights” “in the fishing boats” suddenly “Mastered the night and portioned out the sea”. Night, the darkness, is suddenly “Mastered”. The “night”, the darkness of the world, is revealed, brought out against the light. Stevens further illustrates the power art has on people, the power it has to change the way they view the world, by how the “lights”, “portioned out the sea, Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles”. Their new view of the world around them, the lights see have changed. These lights now have different properties, they can “portion out the sea”. They can divide and distribute the sea into “emblazoned zones and fiery poles”. They way the poet and his friend Ramon view the world has changed. They way they experience the world has changed. The woman’s singing, which is an art, has deeply changed the poet and his friend’s perception of the world.

The Need For Embodiment

Dante’s Inferno is largely supported by various symbolic narratives of sinners who have descended into Hell, however it is the theme that is presented through these symbolic narratives that is most notable. Despite each sinner’s story as to why they are in Hell being unique, they all have one thing in common – the unity of the soul and body. The stories of the sinners simply provide a narrative to convey the intricate and intriguing connection between the soul and body. This indestructible unity is present throughout Dante’s entire journey through the 9 Circles of Hell. As he travels deeper into Hell, the theme becomes clear as the punishments of the body of each sinner in Hell are continually a result of the sin their soul committed on Earth. Moreover, the theme is further developed through the specific stories of sinners who experience the punishment of switching of body and soul with various creatures, as well as the repercussions of attempted separation of soul and body. Through the multiple stories that Dante shares from his journey through Hell, he emphasizes that the necessary unity between the soul and body cannot be destroyed.

As Dante presents the punishment in Hell of each sinner, he is careful to always share the story of their sin on Earth. He creates this concept of contrapasso, which states that the punishment the sinner experiences is equal and fitting to the crime of the sinner; the worse the crime, the worse the punishment. Dante situates fraud to be the worst sin, as it contradicts the fundamentals of love, which encompasses trust, devotion, and loyalty. In the Ninth Circle of Hell, these fundamentals of love are broken on the worst scale, in that the sinners who reside here have broken their bond of trust with their supporter or leader. This is not an obligatory bond like that between family members, but rather a voluntary bond. Breaking this voluntary trust is breaking voluntary love, which resembles the love of God for humans. Thus Dante believes that these crimes constitute the worst punishment. The sinners who reside in the Ninth Circle of Hell, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius, suffer under the punishment of the devil who “with gnashing teeth… [tears] to bits a sinner”. Despite Brutus and Cassius being main instigators in the murder of Julius Caesar, it is not the murder itself that concerns Dante, but rather the betrayal of trust. Thus, the crime that is being punished is not the physical crime, but the crime related to the soul. As a result of their souls being sinful against their supporters and Jesus, their bodies are punished in Hell. This strongly establishes the connection between the soul and the body – the actions committed by one directly affects the other. This is not the only scenario where this is the case. Just prior to bearing witness to the sufferings of the Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius, Dante encounters the sinners who reside in the Eighth Circle of Hell, called Malebolge (“Evil-Pouches”) (Author’s Notes, XVII). This Circle is reserved for “ordinary fraud”, where “those who cheated” or “was a liar” (XXIII:144) suffer. As a result of the fraudulent crime committed by their soul, their bodies are succumbed to punishments such as crucifiction, and being at the mercy of “a dreadful swarm of serpents”. As a result of contrapasso, this inescapable connection between soul and body transfers into the crimes and their due punishments in Hell, further developing the theme.

Although the theme revolves around the connection of the soul and body, Dante demonstrates that they are two unique and individual entities. He shares the story of Fra Alberigo, who’s soul resides in the Eighth Circle of Hell, but he has “no knowledge of [his] body’s fate within the world above”. After becoming a traitor, “a demon [took his] body away… and [kept] that body in his power until its years have run their course completely”. This is extremely interesting as it is one of the few instances in the comedy where Dante makes a distinct separation between the soul and body. This separation is elaborated when Alberigo tells Dante about Branca Doria, who Dante believes to “not yet [be] dead; he eats and drinks and sleeps and puts on clothes”. However, Albergio explains that Doria, too, has “a devil in his stead inside his body” . The body continues to function as if it was inhabited by Doria’s soul, despite the lack thereof. Correspondingly, the souls of Doria and Alberigo live on and possess their individuality despite not inhabiting a body, suggesting that individuality is a component of the soul and not the body. The body is portrayed to be more of an instrument that is utilised by the soul to express individuality. By making these distinctions, Dante demonstrates that both the soul and body are separate entities with their own characteristics and abilities. However, without the body, the soul would be unable to act upon any aspects of its individuality as it requires the physical means to express itself. Likewise, the body is unable to act unless inhabited by a soul to direct it. With this understanding, the connection between the soul and the body is further established as each entity relies on each other for full functionality of a human.

As Dante reveals that the soul and body are dependant upon each other, it becomes clear that a human is incomplete without embodiment. Dante demonstrates this desire for embodiment when he describes the punishment of those who committed suicide. These individuals who were “unjust against [their own] just self”, have their souls trapped inside a tree while their bodies “hang in this sad wood, each on the stump of its vindictive shade”. Following the theme of contrapasso, as a result of these individuals attempting to escape by death from the disdain they experienced in body, they will forever have their bodies and souls separated. This eternal separation is, however, not applicable to all sinners. While in the Third Circle of Hell, Virgil explains to Dante that at “the blast of the angelic trumpet upon the coming of the hostile Judge…. each [sinner] shall see his sorry tomb again and once again take on his flesh and form”. Unlike the suicide victims who “shall seek out the flesh that [they] have left, but none of [them] shall wear it”, other sinners will have the opportunity to reunite their souls with their bodies. In response to Dante’s curiosity regarding the implications of reuniting the soul with the body, Virgil explains that “when a thing has more perfection, so much the greater is its pain or pleasure,” and “though these accursed sinners never shall attain the true perfection, yet they can expect to be more perfect then than now”. From this, it can be understood that perfection is only attainable when the soul and body are united. This is when sensations are heightened and the full functionality of the soul and body can be attained. Dante connects sensations to embodiment, rather than specifically the individual soul or individual body. Thus, in order for an individual to be complete as a human being, the soul and the body must be united together, providing the greatest piece of evidence for the unbreakable connection between the soul and the body.

By using the stories of the sinners to convey the theme of the indestructible connection between the soul and the body, Dante is able to use a multitude of examples to strengthen the connection he makes between the two. Using contrapasso throughout the comedy allows Dante to demonstrate that crimes committed by the soul have immediate consequences on the body in Hell. Further analyzing specific stories where the body is inhabited by an alternate soul begins to draw clarity to the notion that the body and the soul are individual entities which rely on each other for full functionality. Without the body, the soul is unable to be expressed; Without a soul, the body is unable to perform physical functions. This need to have the soul and the body be united is further understood by the stories of the suicide victims and their inability to reunite the body with the soul in contrast to other sinners. Through these stories of the sinners in Hell, we are constantly reminded that a human is only fulfilled by embodiment.

Live Life To The Fullest

Across the world, it is commonly believed that one is given one life to live; the choice to take advantage of the universe’s worldly pleasures and nature’s beauty or to simply live life routinely is left in the hands of those who walk the earth. Hart Crane’s “The Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge” speaks to those who may live their lives plainly, while also giving credit to God for creating an abundance of immaculate beauty across the Earth. Through further analysis of the poem using the SOAPSTone method, one may observe that the purpose of this poem is not only for the speaker to give credit where he or she believes credit is due, but to inform and warn others that life is short, and living life monotonously is wasteful.

The speaker begins with an apostrophe which directly addresses God and his ability to create the days of life, more specifically the “dawns” that “chill from his rippling rest.” The speaker is either a man or a woman who is observing the world from “across the harbor,” watching humankind spend their days moving hastily and boringly. He or she is able to observe and analyze those who are moving “out of some subway scuttle…speed[ing] to thy prophets,” suggesting that at one point he or she, too, lived life this way, and understands how wasteful it is. The shift from imagery of the world to criticism of those who walk it suggest that he or she is either a middle-aged or elderly individual who is reflecting on those who inhabit the physically world in a somewhat critical manner.

Mankind’s predictability is becoming increasingly easier to foretell- an idea that is suggested as the world reminds the speaker of “cinemas, panoramic sleights With multitudes towards some flashing scene.” The occasion takes place in present day life, for the speaker refers to the “traffic lights,” “subway scuttle,” and “caravan[s]” that result in the restlessness and repetitious nature of mankind. These habits are becoming so mundane that the speaker is growing increasingly more appreciative of God’s effect on the world, such as “thy cable” which “breathe the North Atlantic still.” The speaker continuously shifts from description of his or her observances to the slow, stillness of the bodies of water around him in every stanza, creating the idea that although he or she is aware of the beauties and “immaculate sigh of stars,” the fact that others are not is causing him or her stress.

Because he or she shifts focuses various times throughout the work, the audience could be seen as either those who inhabit the Earth, or God himself. Initially, the speaker directly addresses his creator, and continuously mentions his or her fascination when realizing that he or she is part of such a beautiful universe. Reference to the universe’s “condense eternity” and similes such as “as apparitioned as sails that cross some page of figures” show that he or she appreciates the beauties of life and understands just how fleeting and temporary they are. These references could suggest that the speaker’s audience is God himself, and he or she is intending to thank or honor him. Additionally, when the speaker refers to “thee, across the harbor, silver paced” it could also be true that the audience are those who live life “tilting there momently” and never truly taking in life’s beauty.

After understanding who the speaker is addressing as uses metaphors to compare the seagulls that “shed… white rings of tumult” that alter God’s sky and personification such as “speechless caravan” to indirectly criticize those who are not taking full advantage of life, it becomes clear that the purpose of the piece is to not only recognize the natural beauties of the world and give credit to “thee, vaulting the sea,” but to explain to those who walk “across the harbor” that life is merely a “swift Unfractionated idiom” and must be cherished, not thrown away. While the purpose may shift between stanzas as the speaker addresses world’s beauty versus the swiftness of those who walk on it, the overall message remains: one must spend their life gracefully and appreciatively.

The subject, as stated previously, shifts from those who inhabit Earth, and God, along with his prophets who show “reprieve and pardon” on those who walk through life without taking full advantage of it. When the speaker refers to the sights he observes in the physical world, he introduces them as slow, peaceful, and intense- an idea which he or she uses to contrast with the fast-paced society. He or she refers to “snow” which “submerges an iron year”- a sign that darkness and coldness solidify another year wastes among those who go through life with repetition.

Similar to the way the stanzas shift, the tone is also constantly shifting, which proves just how thrown off the speaker is by his observances. As he or she views life’s beauty, the tone appears to be calm, introspective, and appreciative, as if a spectator is commenting positively on a movie that is being played before him. The ‘movie’ analogy is used in this scene just before an apostrophe is used again. This device, however, now refers to “thee, across the harbor” who lives an ordinary, predictable life. When referring to humankind, the speaker’s tone is disappointed. He or she refers to the “City’s fiery parcels” as “undone,” meaning that humans’ speed has caused chaos and “toil.” While the work may seem as though it criticises the world’s inhabitants, it also shows a great esteem for the speaker’s Creator. The shame and disappointment he or she feels while life goes on, wasted, emphasizes just how meaningful life is to the speaker, and highlights the theme of the work: to live mundanely is entirely wasteful.

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