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"Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium. It was first published in 1915, and it is in the public domain.[1]

   Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock

 The houses are haunted
 By white night-gowns.
 None are green,
 Or purple with green rings,
 Or green with yellow rings,
 Or yellow with blue rings.
 None of them are strange,
 With socks of lace
 And beaded ceintures.
 People are not going
 To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
 Only, here and there, an old sailor,
 Drunk and asleep in his boots,
 Catches tigers
 In red weather.

The poem allows the reader to linger over the possibility of colors, of strangeness, and of unusual dreams. Imagination that is absent from a mundane orderly life is represented, not by a dandified aesthete, but instead by a drunken sailor dreaming of catching tigers in red weather. The poem itself shows that imagination has its own order, so the representation should be kept distinct from what it represents. Thus following one of the main facets necessary for modernist literature to function: that the object or idea being represented exists in and for itself, and only itself. On this reading the poem is not an indictment of middle-class values, though that is one interpretive option, but rather the "haunted house" of white night-gowns represents life without imagination.

References Edit

  • Buttel, R. Wallace Stevens: The Making of Harmonium. 1967: Princeton University Press.

Notes Edit

  1. Buttel, p. 159

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