Wallace Stevens

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

Frogs Eat Butterflies, Snakes Eat Frogs, Hogs Eat Snakes, Men Eat Hogs


It is true that the rivers went nosing like swine,
Tugging at banks, until they seemed
Bland belly-sounds in somnolent troughs,

That the air was heavy with the breath of these swine,
The breath of turgid summer, and
Heavy with thunder's rattapallax,

That the man who erected this cabin, planted
This field, and tended it awhile,
Knew not the quirks of imagery,

That the hours of his indolent, arid days,
Grotesque with this nosing in banks,
This somnolence and rattapallax,

Seemed to suckle themselves on his arid being,
As the swine-like rivers suckled themselves
While they went seaward to the sea-mouths.

Submitted: Monday, April 05, 2010

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  • Barry Middleton (1/15/2014 4:25:00 PM)

    No one seems to want to tackle this one. I really like this poem. The title is pretty much the food chain and the poem is about how untutored man and life itself is consumed and essentially without meaning. The tone is beyond dark. Rivers, usually a rather romantic or baptismal image, here are like nosing, grunting swine tugging at banks and sounding like churning stomachs. I can almost smell the rank, farm air like a swines breath that nevertheless is 'turgid, full of the essence of life, summer's heat and thunder. But the man who lived here saw nothing. He might have had another image than that of Stevens but he actually saw nothing - not even how the very farm sucked the life from him. His life was lazy, arid, and somnolent in that he never noticed its grotesqueness. The swine like river flows on to the sea where it too is consumed by the sea mouth. This is not a cheerful poem. Stevens likes to attach whimsical titles to very somber ideas (Report) Reply

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