the moon is the mother of pathos and pity
when, at the wearier end of november,
her old light moves along the branches,
feebly, slowly, depending upon them;
when the body of jesus hangs in a pallor,
humanly near, and the figure of mary,
touched on by hoar-frost, shrinks in a shelter
made by the leaves, that have rotted and fallen;
when over the houses, a golden illusion
brings back an earlier season of quiet
and quieting dreams in the sleepers in darkness -
the moon is the mother of pathos and pity.
(from Stevens, Collected Poetry & Prose, 89-90)
* * * * *
One of the reasons why I love Stevens is that I can relate to his relationship with his own doldrums, his own 'fermentation' (aka rotting), the monastic 'dailyness' of his work and home-life. It wasn't all booze-laced evenings with the Arensbergs, you know.
I've noticed that in all the alchemical literature there's a great deal of emphasis on the importance of 'fermentation,' 'rotting,' and generally lying in neglect until turning green (myth of Inanna). It's an important stage in the alchemical process, in the process of spiritualization and, I would assume, in the creative process. Stevens writes beautifully of it.
I love how, in a quiet moment, he recalls previous quiet moments, and 'season(s) of quiet.' Only a true contemplative would think to do that.
These must be scenes from his daily life: the crucifix, a statue of our lady on some leaf-laden lawn. Gives some credence to the story that he may have converted to Catholicism before he died. It does seem that he had some kind of attraction to it, and as Christian religious sects go, it had perhaps more going for someone of Stevens’ sensibility and mentality.
Also, I love the vulnerability and dependency of these images of 'God' - the Moon 'depends' upon the weary november branches, 'the body of jesus hangs ('depends') in a pallor, humanly near,' and even mary, the mother of god, must be sheltered as she shrinks back from the touch of frost. My god, talk about 'pathos and pity' !