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A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Wallace Stevens

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Added by: Jordan Ruud
This poem is funny and charming. The weirdness of the imagery makes it memorable. I especially love how Stevens alternates high-sounding phrases relating to classical architecture, and singsong coinages ("tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk") - it feels like the West meeting the East, old meeting new, tradition clashing with the avant-garde. And some of the phrases are just completely elegant. Stevens was a genius, and this is one of his better works (I don't like the longer poems so much).
Added by: Jennifer Harrison
it seems stephens is fighting out against restrictions that allow him to do what he wants, when he wants to. like most people who can't take not having their own way, he attacks a person in authority. however, if the 'moral law' was undermined as Stephens suggests, would life really become the 'jovial hullabaloo' that he expects? once the moral law is subverted who would be able to say what's right or wrong? stephens? and where would he know when to stop? the reference to 'bawdiness' for example, i wonder how many women would enjoy becoming prostitutes instead of having a loving relationship or i don't know, a job? but because it suits stephens selfish ideals it's ok. i'm also feeling annoyed by the poem, because it questions an older person. surely stephens should consider that the high toned old woman may have a good reason for living life as she does, and not be so arrogant as to assume he knows better. stephens doesnt want an end to christianity, he wants an end to the moral concience that is there all along in his own self.

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