The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Wallace Stevens, The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.

I find this poem exceptionally moving and keep returning to it when I cannot sleep. As one of the commenters writes here, where I came across this poem, the immense volume of Wallace Steven’s poetry has served as an obstacle and I’ve never known quite where to begin exploring his work. I’ve got a Collected Poetry and Prose around that I think Steve wrote about years ago. This might be something to explore next year.

13 thoughts on “The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

  1. I love this poem. I ‘did’ Wallace Stevens at university, my part one long essay. In fact I had a hardback Collected Poems but it was stolen, along with almost all my hardback books. Anyway, thanks for posting. I often remember his line ‘There is so little that is close & warm, it is as though we were never children.’ Not an obvious Stevens’ line but resounds with me

          • Sent you your own poem by mistake – meant to send Debris of Life And Mind – -attached here I hope https://t.co/yRirpWoY36
            Yes I often wondered if the thieves actually chose books they wanted – but i guess it was motivated only by monetary value – paperbacks being worth only a penny

          • Oh? That link you sent earlier goes to Debris of Life And Mind. At least for me. I took my Stevens off the shelf. It will make a good companion for my upcoming flight to Tokyo.

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