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Wallace Stevens

(October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955 / Pennsylvania / United States)

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour


Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003
Edited: Thursday, April 28, 2011

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  • Rookie Gary Witt (9/7/2009 4:59:00 PM)

    Mr. Zagor is absolutely correct, the first line should read 'Light the first light of evening, as in a room.'

    In the title, “Final Soliloquy” clearly means that these are someone’s dying words. “Interior Paramour” seems to indicate a part of all of us—a part deep inside each of us—that is in love.

    The Paramour is preparing for its “intensest rendezvous, ” and does so by lighting “the first light of evening as in a room/ In which we rest [i.e., die] and, for small reason [i.e., on faith alone, or at least by way of very little else] think/ The world imagined is the ultimate good.” The “we” in the sentence seems to refer to all the various personality parts of the person within whom the Interior Paramour resides. It might also refer to all people everywhere. To call it the “royal we” seems misplaced. The stanza calls to mind a number of images, however, from the cliché “better to light one candle than to curse the darkness, ” to Goethe’s last words (More light! More light!) , to a comparison or an equation of death to sexual ecstasy.

    It is in this thought (“the world imagined is the ultimate good”) that “we collect ourselves, / Out of all the indifferences, into one thing.” We do not collect ourselves out of all the differences, but out of all the indifferences, or apathies, or non-caring. We, in short, collect ourselves out of all the things we previously ignored (possibly because we were incapable of comprehending all of them) , and we find unity—not just with “ourselves” but with everything around us. That single thought (that the world imagined is the ultimate good) becomes a shawl that we (even in our poverty—material, spiritual, and intellectual poverty) can wrap around ourselves to obtain “a warmth, / A light, a power, the miraculous influence.”

    That single thought (that the world imagined is the ultimate good) becomes a source of comfort, enlightenment, and power. It has a “miraculous influence.”

    Here, now, in the present moment, we are able to “forget each other and ourselves./ We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole, / A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous, // Within its vital boundary, in the mind.” So the process begins with a “forgetting” of our separateness and our egos or selves, which in turn leads to a “feeling” of unity and order, and ultimately to a “knowledge…which arranged the rendezvous.”

    Comparing the second line of the first stanza (where we are invited to think “for small reason”) with the third line of the fourth stanza (where we learn that knowledge has arranged the rendezvous) , we see what might be considered a paradox. It is some kind of faith or hope or optimism that invites us “with little reason” to think that “the world imagined is the ultimate good.” Yet thinking that thought leads to a “knowledge” that seems to have been pre-existing, separate and apart from “us”—a knowledge that arranged the rendezvous in the first place.

    In the fifth stanza the nature of the rendezvous is revealed: God and the imagination are at last one. We now understand that this is genuinely the most intense rendezvous we can have. We learn that the Interior Paramour has, the entire time, been in love with and seeking after God.

    And yet (there is always a “yet” with Stevens) , the rendezvous takes place “within [knowledge’s] vital boundary, in the mind.” Furthermore, “we say” that God and the imagination are one.

    If the rendezvous takes place in the mind, can we be certain that it really does take place? Are we deluding ourselves when “we say” that God and the imagination are one?

    Can we be certain that our love is not unrequited?

    Stevens does not merely brush these questions aside. He begins his answer (or rather the Paramour does) with an exclamation of “How high that highest candle lights the dark.” There may always be doubts, we cannot eliminate the darkness, but we must do what we can to light it. Moreover, the Paramour now equates this light with “the central mind.” If, after all, the knowledge that arranged the rendezvous was pre-existing, it had to reside somewhere. Is the central mind equal to the mind of God? Perhaps. But let’s not forget, it is the voice of the Paramour that we hear: “Out of this same light, out of the central mind, / We make a dwelling in the evening air, / In which being there together is enough.” The use of the Paramour's voice here leaves room for an underlying-and fully intact-agnosticism.

    Our construction of a dwelling in the evening air compares with the nave constructed from the moral law, and the peristyle constructed from the “opposing law” in “A High-Toned Old Christian Woman.” It is the palm (rooted in the earth but stretching toward heaven) created out of conscience, or out of our unpurged bawdiness.

    Ultimately, “being there together [in this dwelling we have constructed] is enough.” We may be deluding ourselves. Poetry is, after all, the supreme fiction. (See “High-Toned Old Christian Woman.”) But we may never know that we are deluding ourselves. And that will suffice, in a manner similar to “The poem of the mind in the act of finding/ What will suffice.” (See “Of Modern Poetry.”)

    I think it is extremely important to ask the question of whether Stevens is talking here about an objective or subjective reality. My own opinion, which is certainly subject to further persuasion, is that it is an objective reality which must be perceived and comprehended by subjective means, or by 'what will suffice.' (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Zagor (8/6/2009 5:14:00 PM)

    It's difficult to take any of the comments seriously since none of them seem to have noticed that you have left out the last four words of the first line.

    It should be: 'Light the first light of evening, as in a room'

    So it's not 'a light' in which we rest. It's 'a room.' A considerable difference, don't you think?

    Out of respect for Wallace Stevens and, indeed, for poetry itself, I suggest you correct this error immediately. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Diana Kern (2/10/2008 7:19:00 AM)

    In this poem Wallace Stevens travels into his heart, his soul to speak to the Divine that lives in all of us. This place is the final destination where we gather together as one.

    Through all space and time, Stevens transmutes each one of us to a place of silence, of peace, “of being there together”.

    The first light is the beginning of creation, of a new day, of a new way of being.
    “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.”

    In this light we rest in faith with the knowing that we are one. Prejudice and injustice can not breathe under God’s illumination; in a “world of ultimate good”. All that is living is in Divine order. As we wrap Divinity around each one of us, we feel the “miraculous influence” of God consciousness.

    Every moment in this place of light is a miracle. We can imagine a world of “ultimate good”, if we remain in the light of God’s comfort.

    We stay present to each moment in God’s light transcending our egos and our judgment. What remains is the source of God as our truth. We unite as we let go of fear. We share the same history as move outside our humanness. At once, we are black and white, male and female, joy and sorrow. We share the same heart that beats for only God and His goodness. (Report) Reply

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