Domination of Black

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"Domination of Black" is a poem in Wallace Stevens' Harmonium, first published in 1916 and later (1942) selected by him as his best poem for the anthology This Is My Best.

Domination of Black

 At night, by the fire,
 The colors of the bushes
 And of the fallen leaves,
 Repeating themselves,
 Turned in the room,
 Like the leaves themselves
 Turning in the wind.
 Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks
 Came striding.
 And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

 The colors of their tails
 Were like the leaves themselves
 Turning in the wind,
 In the twilight wind.
 They swept over the room,
 Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
 Down to the ground.
 I heard them cry—the peacocks.
 Was it a cry against the twilight
 Or against the leaves themselves
 Turning in the wind,
 Turning as the flames
 Turned in the fire,
 Turning as the tails of the peacocks
 Turned in the loud fire,
 Loud as the hemlocks
 Full of the cry of the peacocks?
 Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?

 Out of the window,
 I saw how the planets gathered
 Like the leaves themselves
 Turning in the wind.
 I saw how the night came,
 Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks
 I felt afraid.
 And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

It can be compared to imagist paintings of the period such as Klee's "Blaue Nacht",[1] Klee's shades of blue replaced by Stevens' colors of the night. Stevens adds unsettling elements. The poem unfolds like a little horror show. A fire creates flickering images of the colors of bushes and leaves, which themselves turn in the wind. Also the color of heavy hemlocks "came striding", as from the river Styx ("the Stygian hemlocks", in Vendler's phrase). Ambiguous peacocks descend from the hemlocks. Then the poet notices outside his window the planets gathering isomorphically, "Like the leaves themselves", and the night came striding. The threat of darkness (death? suicide?) is palpable: "I felt afraid."

See also "Tea", which, like "Domination of Black", demonstrates "all the troping of leaves through the collection".[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cook, p. 85
  • Vendler, Helen. Words Chosen Out of Desire. 1984: University of Tennessee Press.
  • Cook, Eleanor. A Reader's Guide to Wallace Stevens. 2007: Princeton University Press.