Jul 29 2013

Wallace Stevens – The house was quiet and the world was calm

Published by at 8:45 am under Poetry

The house was quiet and the world was calm
by Wallace Stevens

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 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.

— from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, by Wallace Stevens

/ Photo by Adan Garcia /

Ooh, nice.

Can’t you just feel the calm spreading out into the summer night? So quiet you hear the crackling of stillness like an unvoiced roar gathering in the skull.

I picture the poet in the 1950s, on a cool night after an overlong hot day, sitting in a wooden chair outside on his porch, a porchlight above his shoulder drawing moths, a book open in his lap, and all the night seems to be leaning in to read with him. He shifts his weight, the chair creaks, and all falls into silence again.

Calm, quiet, meaning, mind…

One can say the poet is enjoying a sweet, timeless moment reading a book. Or it could be that he has been overtaken by communion with heaven and earth. The book is just an excuse to be there.

This summer night, I hope you too have a sweet, timeless moment when the house is quiet and the world calm

Sending much love!

Wallace Stevens, Wallace Stevens poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Wallace Stevens

US (1879 – 1955) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 1879. He attended Harvard as an undergraduate and earned a law degree from New York Law School. Admitted to the U.S. Bar in 1904, Stevens found employment at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. in Connecticut, of which he became vice president in 1934. In November 1914, Harriet Monroe included four of his poems in a special wartime issue of Poetry, and Stevens began to establish an identity for himself outside the world of law and business. His first book of poems, Harmonium, published in 1923, exhibited the influence of both the English Romantics and the French symbolists, an inclination to aesthetic philosophy, and a wholly original style and sensibility: exotic, whimsical, infused with the light and color of an Impressionist painting. More than any other modern poet, Stevens was concerned with the transformative power of the imagination. Composing poems on his way to and from the office and in the evenings, Stevens continued to spend his days behind a desk at the office, and led a quiet, uneventful life. Though now considered one of the major American poets of the century, he did not receive widespread recognition until the publication of his Collected Poems, just a year before his death. His major works include Ideas of Order (1935), The Man With the Blue Guitar (1937), Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction (1942), and a collection of essays on poetry, The Necessary Angel (1951). Wallace Stevens died in Hartford in 1955.

— from Poets.org

More poetry by Wallace Stevens

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Wallace Stevens – The house was quiet and the world was calm”

  1. Madathil R. Nairon 29 Jul 2013 at 9:25 am

    Ivan, your interpretation is real poetry!

  2. Bethon 29 Jul 2013 at 9:41 pm

    How appropriate to me today, when I took the time to read a whole book. I hadn’t done that in a long time. The book was “Flowers for Algernon”

  3. amir freimannon 29 Jul 2013 at 10:16 pm

    הבית היה שקט והעולם היה רגוע
    מאת וואלאס סטיבנס

    הבית היה שקט והעולם היה רגוע.
    הקורא היה לַסֵּפֶר; ליל הקיץ

    היה כמו הַיֵּשׁוּת המוּדעת של הספר.
    הבית היה שקט והעולם היה רגוע.

    המילים נאמרו כאילו לא היה ספר,
    אלמלא רכן הקורא מעל הדף,

    רצה לרכון, כה רצה להיות
    המלומד אשר לו נועד הספר, אשר לו

    היה ליל הקיץ כמו שלמוּת מחשבה.
    הבית היה שקט כי כך היה עליו להיות.

    השקט היה חלק מהמשמעות, חלק מהתבונה:
    דרכה של השלמוּת אל הדף.

    והעולם היה רגוע. האמת בעולם רגוע,
    בו אין כל משמעות אחרת, היא עצמה

    רוֹגַע, היא עצמה קיץ ולילה, היא עצמה
    הקורא הרוכן בשעה מאוחרת וקורא שם.

    (Translation: Amir Freimann)

  4. Aravindaon 29 Jul 2013 at 10:29 pm


  5. slobhanaon 30 Jul 2013 at 10:03 am

    I hope I can, Ivan to answer to you….

    It was long ago/far away in India and unfortunately (or fortunatley) it was summer months and oh so hot in my part of the world where I grew up part of my teenage years. It was West Bengal village and everything was so very calm & quiet when one can hear the breeze of mango tree. Sitting under the heaven under the full moon it was enjoying at its fullest. I was very young then didn’t need to know any meditating to understand deeper meaning of life and reality, which I do now

    By the way Wallace Stevens is one of my favourite poets although it is difficult to grasp the poet or the poems; I very much enjoyed (and still do) “The Anecdote of a Glass Jar”

    Just like to note, Ivan, you make understanding and enjoying poems easy via your analysis Thank you very much

  6. Pegon 30 Jul 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I love this…getting caught up in a book..but this poem speaks to me of when I have to stop reading and everything has crystallized into oneness. I don’t need to read the book because I know every word, thought…reading becomes secondary, somehow diminishes the moment. Breath, earth, body, air are one.

  7. Carolon 31 Jul 2013 at 4:11 am

    Oh my, thank you Ivan – very touching poem. And your commentary and thought
    for the day, so meaningful.

    I agree with Aravinda – just beautiful!

  8. Therese Monaghan O.P.on 31 Jul 2013 at 10:40 am

    Thank you, Ivan, for reawakening me to the delight of “communion between earth and heaven” in the timeless moment of a summer night. Your choice of Wallace Steven’s poem and commentary is special. I’m going to get on the porch soon with or without my book.

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