Colloquy with a Polish Aunt

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"Colloquy with a Polish Aunt" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium. It was first published in 1919.[1]

Colloquy with a Polish Aunt

Elle savait toutes les légendes du Paradis et tous les contes de la
Pologne. Revue des Deux Mondes


 How is it that my saints from Voragaine,
 In their embroidered slippers, touch your spleen?


 Old pantaloons, duenna of the spring!


 Imagination is the will of things....
 Thus, on the basis of the common drudge,
 You dream of women, swathed in indigo,
 Holding their books toward the nearer stars,
 To read, in secret, their burning secrecies....

Revue des deux mondes (Journal of the Two Worlds) is a French language monthly literary and cultural affairs magazine that has been published in Paris since 1829. It was created in order to establish a cultural, economic and political bridge between France and the United States.[1] The quotation says, "She knew all the legends of Paradise and all the stories about Poland." The phrase "from Voragine" seems to be a reference to Verazze.[2]

Leading interpreters of Harmonium give Colloquy a wide berth. Buttel omits it from his index catalog of the collection's poems. Bates steers clear of it similarly. The poem is a contribution to one of Stevens's major themes,[3] the relationship between imagination and reality. The poet's imaginative dream transforms the common drudge into women swathed in indigo, etc.


  1. ^ See Librivox
  2. ^ Jacobus de Voragine#cite note-0
  3. ^ Vendler writes, "Some readers have seen his subject as an epistemological one, and have written about his views on the imagination and its uneasy rapport with reality. Others have seen his subject as a moral one, a justification of an aesthetic hedonism. Still others have seen his subject as a native humanist one, the quest of the American Adam for a Paradise in the wilderness." (3)


  • Bates, Milton J. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. 1985:
 University of California Press.
  • Buttel, Robert. Wallace Stevens: The Making of Harmonium. 1967:
 Princeton University Press.  
  • Vendler, Helen. On Extended Wings. 1969: Harvard University Press.