THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR | Wallace Stevens
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”
And they said to him, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar,
Of things exactly as they are.”
I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.
I sing a hero’s head, large eye
And bearded bronze, but not a man,
Although I patch him as I can
And reach through him almost to man.
If a serenade almost to man
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,
Say that it is the serenade
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.
A tune beyond us as we are,
Yet nothing changed by the blue guitar;
Ourselves in tune as if in space,
Yet nothing changed, except the place
Of things as they are and only the place
As you play them on the blue guitar,
Placed, so, beyond the compass of change,
Perceived in a final atmosphere;
For a moment final, in the way
The thinking of art seems final when
The thinking of god is smoky dew.
The tune is space. The blue guitar
Becomes the place of things as they are,
A composing of senses of the guitar.
Tom-tom c’est moi. The blue guitar
And I are one. The orchestra
Fills the high hall with shuffling men
High as the hall. The whirling noise
Of a multitude dwindles, all said,
To his breath that lies awake at night.
I know that timid breathing. Where
Do I begin and end? And where,
As I strum the thing, do I pick up
That which momentarily declares
Itself not to be I and yet
Must be. It could be nothing else.
Painting: The Old Guitarist is an oil painting by Pablo Picasso
Poem: It is said that Wallace Stevens was inspired by Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. See next post for further notes on the poem which is much longer than the four stanzas published here.