Gubbinal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"Gubbinal" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium. It is in the public domain according to Librivox.[1]

It can be read as one of his "poems of epistemology", as B. J. Leggett styles it in his Nietzschean reading of Stevens' perspectivism,[2] a minimalistic statement of his interest in the relationship between imagination and the world. The term 'gubbinal' may derive from 'gubbin', slang for a dullard, referring here to someone who takes the world to be ugly and the people sad.[3]

Gubbinal

 That strange flower, the sun,
 Is just what you say.
 Have it your way.

 The world is ugly,
 And the people are sad.

 That tuft of jungle feathers,
 That animal eye,
 Is just what you say.

 That savage of fire,
 That seed,
 Have it your way.

 The world is ugly,
 And the people are sad.

Perspectives or 'takes' on the world may be less or more insightful, ranging from 'the world is ugly' to a poetic take on the sun. Stevens has been understood as an idealist, denying the existence of a (mind-independent) external world, but that is not necessary. Apart from perspectives, there is nothing to say about the world. Saying introduces a perspective. That much can be gleaned from The Snow Man, which begins with beautiful perspectives ("Junipers shagged with ice," etc.) and ends with a dramatic last line, stripping the perspectives down to nothing as the self loses its capacity to project itself onto the world. Neither "Gubbinal" nor "The Snow Man" means that the external world is an illusion, or a figment of imagination. They are testifying rather to the creative power of imagination. The poem says "Have it your way", but it shows poetic possibilities that defy the banal perspectives.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "COMPLETE: Public Domain Poems of W Stevens, Vol. 1 - PO/ez". LibriVox Forum. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ Leggett, B. J. "On "The Snow Man"". Retrieved September 27, 2010.  Excerpted from Leggett, Early Stevens: The Nietzschean Intertext, 1992, Duke University Press.
  3. ^ Nicholson, p. 23: "In somewhat arcane slang 'gubbin' means what it sounds like, a dull person --- the 'you' who insists on the sad ugliness of the world."

References[edit]

  • Leggett, B.J. Early Stevens: The Nietzchean Intertext. 1982: Duke UP.
  • Nicholson, Mervyn. "Reading Stevens' Riddles." College English, Vol. 50, No. 1. (Jan., 1988), pp. 13–31.
  • Peterson, Margaret. Wallace Stevens and the idealist tradition. 1983: UMI Research Press