Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
Summary of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
- Popularity of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”: Wallace Stevens, a renowned American poet wrote, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’. The poem is about meditation and also thought-provoking. It was first published in October 1917. The poet expresses his love with nature. He also talks about his ability to look at the same things using different lenses.
- “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” As Representative of Wonder: This poem is an expression of wonder. The speaker narrates his experiences of looking at a blackbird from various perspectives. At first, he sees a moving blackbird among the vast, motionless expanse of snowy mountains. Then he compares his divided mind with a tree with three blackbirds sitting in its branches. When he observes closely, he explains the blackbird’s flying pattern and whistling in a very catchy way. He wonders why men of Haddam long for an ideal, unreachable golden bird when the blackbird is available all around. He says that the people characterized themselves as separate from nature, but man and nature are the same. To him, everything in nature is connected such as rivers, mountains, and blackbirds.
- Major Themes in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”: Nature and simplicity are the major themes of this poem. The writer presents an ordinary blackbird in contrast with the things present in nature just to develop the idea that even tiny objects have roles to play in the natural world. Nature will never change its cycle. Being a part of nature, the poet accepts this idea and presents it using his intellect. Throughout the poem, the writer tries to suggest that there is always more than one way to look at similar objects. Every person has different personalities. Also, there is no superior race.
Literary Devices Used in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Wallace Stevens has also used various literary devices to enhance the intended impacts of his poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.
- Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. ‘The Blackbird’ symbolizes the thoughts and the consciousness of the speaker. ‘Golden bird’ symbolizes wealth and money. ‘Noble accents’ symbolize higher forms of knowledge.
- Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare a person and object with something else to make the meanings clear. For example, In the second stanza, the poet has compared his mind with a tree and its branches, “I was of three minds, Like a tree.”
- Allusion: Allusion is an indirect reference of a person, place, thing or idea of a historical, cultural, political or literary significance. Here, the triple mind alludes to Fraud’s concept of id, ego, and superego. For example, “I was of three minds, Like a tree.”
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, in the first stanza, the eye of a blackbird is the only moving thing.
- Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between different objects and persons. For example, “The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds. It was a small part of the pantomime.” Here, the blackbird is compared to a player in a pantomime.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. For example, “Was the eye of the blackbird”, “The shadow of his equipage” and “And it was going to snow.”
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ng/ in “The only moving thing” and the sound of /r/ in “In which there are three blackbirds.”
- Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues to the next line. For example,
“Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.”
Poetic Devices Used in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are thirteen stanzas in this poem, with each varies in length.
- Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
- Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, fourth and tenth stanzas are quatrains.
Quotes to be Used
The lines stated below are suitable to be used in a speech when talking about the stillness and calmness of winter. You may also use this to compare a quiet mind and a mind filled with doubts.
“Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.”