• Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Margaret Fuller, and Dickinson do not take as daemon “the exquisite errors of time.” Their genius is to possess and be possessed not by a sense of their own design but by the quest for the face they had “before the world was made” (Yeats).
  • In a curious way, Stevens was what Goethe asserted himself to be: “the genius of happiness and astonishment.” … … No one else in American poetic tradition, Whitman and Dickinson included, expresses so well that solitary and inward glory few of us can share with others.
  • Emily Dickinson follows Shakespeare in thinking by and through metaphor, while Whitman and Stevens tend to evade even figurative cognition through an intransitive eros.
  • Whitman is perplexed and perplexing on the idea of immortality; at his most impressive he conveys the insight that we will survive only in the loving memories of our families, comrades, readers. Stevens shared this mature vision, … …

countenance: 面容; riposte: 还击; sarcophagus: 石棺; jubilance: 欢呼; epiphany: 顿悟




  • I recite the poem frequently to myself, either silently or aloud, depending on whether I am alone. Possession by memory changes your relation to a poem, longer poems in particular. A sense comes of being inside The Auroras of Autumn, of internalizing its drama within self.
  • The Whitmanian accents haunt Stevens’s poem, though their daemonic enlargements are tempered by Stevens’s wariness of engulfment by a precursor who seems always in the American sunrise.
  • Swerving from Whitmaninan enlargement into a narrowing of perspective, the unbelieving Stevens sings for the skeptical Santayana … … This is the sublime Stevens I love best, who speaks for the solitude at the center of American being. If you deprecate this is solipsism, then recall Wittgenstein … … : What the solipsist says is wrong but what he means is right.
  • Stevens, like D.H.Lawrence, never writes less than superbly when roused by the sun, in this also following Whitman. From start to end, his work is a solar litany.
  • Live with Stevens’s poetry long enough and you can get a sense of somehow dwelling inside particular poems.

divulge: 泄露; travail: 劬劳; engulfment: 吞没; wariness: 谨慎; amber: 琥珀; depricate: 贬值; positivist: 实证; smitten: 重拳出击; litany: 一连串; rhapsody: 狂想曲




  • Fundamentally, what divides the two poets was spiritual: Eliot longed to believe in the incarnation, while Stevens sought some last remnant of personal nobility, of a possible wisdom.
  • When I was younger, this difference between Stevens and Eliot seemed temperamental and a question of taste. In old age, it becomes a question or remaining time, since I teach, read, and write now against the clock.
  • Neither Eliot nor Stevens, two remarkably intelligent minds, possessed cognitive originality, a rare quality in major poets: Dante, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and only a few others had it. Eliot turned to mystics and contemplates and to F.H.Bradley for cognitive guidance. Stevens tended to employ Nietzsche and William James, who were not congenial to Eliot.
  • Notoriously, Stevens almost always avoids the Whitmanian capital letter “I” and replaces it by “one.”
  • Many thousands of admirable students have taught me more than I could impart to them. One admonition I tend to give them is: Learn to say of a poet and a poem that she and it touch upon permanence, and we should recognize this. And yet the freedom of reading well permits saying: Despite this achieved splendor, what is most humane in me just does not allow more than a cold admiration. Stevens has helped me to live my life, while Eliot brings out the worst in me.

incarnation: 化身; remnant: 残余; apotheosis: 神化; idolatry: 偶像崇拜; congenial: 投机





  • Most of the American writers studied in this book start with a recognition of the god or daemon within themselves and compose through moving outward: … … On the other side, Twain, Eliot, and Faulkner begin in the outside world and only gradually encounter inside themselves an affirmation of their outward vision.
  • Like Balzac and Dickens, Faulkner peopled his own cosmos. All three need to be absorbed as seers of The Human Comedy but also as tacticians of individual dooms. More than with Hawthorne and Henry James, we do Faulkner violence when we isolate a single narrative and weigh it by itself.

misogynist: 厌恶; doom: 厄运; seer: 先见者


  • I confess that Faulkner’s sympathetic yet dispassionate view of Addie hovers outside my ken, but I admire his stoic acceptance. The book astonishes by its veritable apocalypse of fire and flood, heroism and madness, drive beyond the pleasure principle, and its uncanny fusion of farce and pathos. Faulkner, here more than in his other books, bruises the limits of his language in a zest to say what cannot be said, and to see what cannot be seen.

veritable: 名副其实; farce: 闹剧; bruise: 挫伤; zest: 热情


  • Faulkner himself did not see anyone in Sanctuary as evil: For him, even Popeye is “another lost human being.” All of the protagonists — Temple, Horace, Popeye, Goodwin, Ruby — end in a condition of total emotional indifference, a despair so total that to name it apathy or nihilism seems inadequate … … This is Faulkner’s art, that we do care.


  • Except for  As I Lay Dying, I take Light in August to be Faulkner’s finest aesthetic achievement … … The sagas of Joe Christmas, Hightower, and Lena are separate stories, and the links between them are minor. But narrative power sustains all three recitals, and each is aided by juxtaposition with the others. The existence of Joe Christmas is a continuous nightmare, while Hightower dwells in an unreal dream, and Lena moves on like the natural process she both exemplifies and enhances.
  • Indeed Light in August is the book of Joe Christmas; and yet whenever I recall it, I think first of Lena. Her relevance to the book has been questioned but not by any deep reader of Faulkner. Her serene presence contributes to what can be termed Faulkner’s “ecstasy of the ordinary,” curious moments that are secular epiphanies.

mores: 习俗; epiphany: 顿悟

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.