Section I, part IV of Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
The first idea was not our own. Adam
In Eden was the father of Descartes
And eve made air the mirror of herself,
Of her sons and of her daughters. They found themselves
In heaven as in a glass; a second earth;
And in the earth itself they found a green—
The inhabitants of a very varnished green.
But the first idea was not to shape the clouds
In imitation. The clouds preceded us.
There was a muddy centre before we breathed.
There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.
From this the poem springs: that we live in a place
That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves
And hard it is in spite of blazoned days.
We are the mimics. Clouds are pedagogues.
The air is not a mirror but bare board,
Coulisse bright-dark, tragic chiaroscuro
And comic color of the rose, in which
Abysmal instruments make sounds like pips
Of the sweeping meanings that we add to them.