Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Original Text: 
Harmonium (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, [September 7], 1923): 135-37. York University Library Special Collections 734
2The only moving thing
3Was the eye of the black bird.
II
4I was of three minds,
5Like a tree
6In which there are three blackbirds.
III
7The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
8It was a small part of the pantomime.
IV
9A man and a woman
10Are one.
11A man and a woman and a blackbird
12Are one.
V
13I do not know which to prefer,
14The beauty of inflections
15Or the beauty of innuendoes,
16The blackbird whistling
17Or just after.
VI
18Icicles filled the long window
19With barbaric glass.
20The shadow of the blackbird
21Crossed it, to and fro.
22The mood
23Traced in the shadow
24An indecipherable cause.
26Why do you imagine golden birds?
27Do you not see how the blackbird
28Walks around the feet
29Of the women about you?
VIII
30I know noble accents
31And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
32But I know, too,
33That the blackbird is involved
34In what I know.
IX
35When the blackbird flew out of sight,
36It marked the edge
37Of one of many circles.
X
38At the sight of blackbirds
39Flying in a green light,
41Would cry out sharply.
XI
42He rode over Connecticut
43In a glass coach.
44Once, a fear pierced him,
45In that he mistook
46The shadow of his equipage
47For blackbirds.
XII
48The river is moving.
49The blackbird must be flying.
XIII
50It was evening all afternoon.
51It was snowing
52And it was going to snow.
53The blackbird sat
54In the cedar-limbs.

Notes

1] In a letter to L. W. Payne, Jr., Stevens patiently explained that the poem dealt with sense experiences or "sensations" (Letters, 251). Back to Line
25] Haddam: a town in Connecticut whose men may have dug once for gold but whose distinctively "Yankee"-sounding name accounted for its use here (Letters, 251, 786). Back to Line
40] bawds of euphony: evidently, literary critics, those who make money off other men's enjoyment of harmony (Letters, 340). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1917
Publication Notes: 
Others (Dec. 1917): 109-11
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.