A Postcard from the Volcano

By Wallace Stevens 1879–1955 Wallace Stevens
Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once   
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes   
Made sharp air sharper by their smell   
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones   
We left much more, left what still is   
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow   
Above the shuttered mansion house,   
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion's look   
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is ... Children,   
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems   
As if he that lived there left behind   
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,   
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.

Wallace Stevens, "A Postcard from the Volcano" from Collected Poems.  Copyright 1923, 1951, 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. 

Source: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)

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Poet Wallace Stevens 1879–1955

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living

 Wallace  Stevens

Biography

Wallace Stevens is one of America's most respected poets. He was a master stylist, employing an extraordinary vocabulary and a rigorous precision in crafting his poems. But he was also a philosopher of aesthetics, vigorously exploring the notion of poetry as the supreme fusion of the creative imagination and objective reality. Because of the extreme technical and thematic complexity of his work, Stevens was sometimes considered . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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