Wallace Stevens, “Fabliau of Florida”

Do other people find this poem as haunting as I do? I don’t know how I’d begin to persuade anyone who didn’t instantly feel its beauty that it really is an extraordinary piece of writing. In a sense it’s not much more than the evocation of a scene which a more ordinary description might present more clearly. The pleasure it gives me seems to me to have two essential sources. One is the near perfection of its phrasing and timing, giving a feeling of almost animal rightness to its movement. Another is the way the play of suggestion in the words seems to dissolve the boundaries between the fantasy of the reader, the emotion of the observer, and the external reality he is observing. What is unusual about the poem is not the importance of either of these elements – the first is surely vital to all true poetry – but just how wide the gap between this poem’s power and its paraphrasable sense is. Perhaps that is only to say that it is a poem stripped almost completely to its essentials.

The text of the poem can be found at







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