Wallace Stevens

Here you will find the Poem Peter Quince at the Clavier of poet Wallace Stevens

Peter Quince at the Clavier


Just 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 touch 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, 
Amid 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 scraping. 
Now, in its immortality, it plays 
On the clear viol of her memory, 
And makes a constant sacrament of praise.