A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Original Text: 
Harmonium (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, [September 7], 1923): 89. York University Library Special Collections 734
3And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus,
4The conscience is converted into palms,
6We agree in principle. That's clear. But take
8And from the peristyle project a masque
9Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness,
10Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
11Is equally converted into palms,
12Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm,
13Madame, we are where we began. Allow,
14Therefore, that in the planetary scene
17Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
19May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
20A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
21This will make widows wince. But fictive things
22Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.


1] Stevens borrowed the title phrase from his friend Judge Arthur Powell (Brazeau, 100). Back to Line
2] nave: main part of the church, holding the congregation; punning on `knave'? Back to Line
5] citherns: citterns, Renaissance guitars. Back to Line
7] peristyle: a colonnade that surrounds a courtyard or building. Back to Line
15] flagellants: self-scourgers, named after a 13th-century sect that humbled lust by whipping. Back to Line
16] muzzy: liquor-numbed. Back to Line
18] tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk: onomatopoeic terms, imitating the sound of metal on different kinds of objects. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Dial 73 (July 1922): 59
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.