Valley Candle

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"Valley Candle" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium. It is in the public domain according to Librivox, having been first published prior to the 1923 publication year of Harmonium.[1]

Valley Candle

My candle burned alone in an immense valley.
Beams of the huge night converged upon it,
Until the wind blew.
Then beams of the huge night
Converged upon its image,
Until the wind blew.

"Valley Candle" is a spare and austere poem with Imagist virtues. It may be compared to "Domination of Black", which also makes use of the colors of the night, though "Domination" is more emotionally charged. Like other works, it is entirely written in metaphors. Its subject might be mortality ("My candle") and the traces that one's life leaves behind, but more importantly the poetry of the subject is the striking representation of the burning candle and the image it leaves behind, each given dramatic illumination by "beams of the huge night", each crisply snuffed out when the wind blew.

Whalen[1] proposes that most critics see the poem as an allegory of the mind. The candle is ablaze with conscious life,[2] or it has the illuminating power of the creative artist.[3] It may be an apology for the imagination's slanted light, which will not sustain a heavy burden.[4]

One interpretive choice point is whether "Valley Candle" should be compared to "Anecdote of the Jar", as granting ordering power to the candle like the jar's. Rehder proposes the comparison. Both objects create the world from which they come; they are the fixed points, the centers, "necessary to change chaos to order and to communicate purpose."[5] Whalen rejects the comparison.[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Whalen, p. 229.
  2. ^ Doggett, F.
  3. ^ Kessler, E.
  4. ^ Riddel, J.
  5. ^ Rehder, as quoted by Whalen, p. 232.
  6. ^ Whalen, p. 232.

References[edit]

  • Doggett, Frank. Stevens’ Poetry of Thought. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966.
  • Kessler, Edward. Images of Wallace Stevens. Rutgers University Press, 1972.
  • Rehder, Robert. The Poetry of Wallace Stevens. Macmillan Press, 1988.
  • Riddel, Joseph N. The Clairvoyant Eye: The Poetry and Poetics of Wallace Stevens. Louisiana State University Press, 1965.
  • Whalen, Tom. "'Alone in an Immense Valley': A Note on Stevens' `Valley Candle'". Wallace Stevens Journal. 20.2 (Fall 1996)