Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself

(1972)

"Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself" is the first poem and song in Ned Rorem's Last Poems of Wallace Stevens. The song is for soprano and cello, though the song itself is framed by a few measures of piano arpeggi.

Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing Itself
by Wallace Stevens


At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.


He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.


The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow...
It would have been outside.


It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-mache...
The sun was coming from the outside.


That scrawny cry--It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,


Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.


--The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens


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