There are some plummy aphorisms, such as the remark that the romantic ‘is a failure of the imagination precisely as sentimentality is a failure of feeling.’ There are a few dubious pages, such as that on which he mistakenly commends Stalin for being free from the ‘cult of pomp,’ or where he speaks of nobility as ‘conspicuously absent from contemporary poet ry.’ Has Stevens never read his contemporary, St.-John Perse? What chiefly fills his mind and reverberates for us, however, is nothing at all doubtful. It is the give and take between reality, things as they are, life in all its physical and spiritual violence, on the one hand, and, on the other, imagination, which he somewhere defines as ‘the sum of our faculties’ and elsewhere as ‘the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in
chaos.’ He knows that ‘the world about us would be desolate except for the world within us,’ and he makes the most of both worlds. He writes about imagination almost as Col eridge might have done, could that great mind have divorced itself from its religious provincialism. He writes about the significance of poetry as Arnold might have, could he have stepped out from under the shadow of the Victorian schoolroom. He writes, of course, and most happily, like no one but Wallace Stevens, and we can only rejoice to attend.