Is Covid-19 sending the world mad? Are we crawling up the walls & holding family cat-fights? Isolation can be better than this, as the American poet Wallace Stevens wants to persuade you in this poem. The writer is alone with his book. The world is quiet. “The summer night is like a perfection of thought”. There is something of contemplation here and the poem is indeed a celebration of reading as a contemplative activity. I am not quite sure if it’s more a poem about reading, or one about solitude. Let’s say it's both.


The house was quiet and the world was calm
by Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Posted on April 2nd, 2020


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