wallace stevens on the geography of the imagination

A man in Paris does not imagine the same sort of
thing that a native of Uganda imagines. If each could
transmit his imagination to the other, so that the man
in Paris, lying awake at night, could suddenly hear
a footfall that meant the presence of some inimical
and merciless monstrosity, and if the man in Uganda
found himself in, say, the Muenster at Basel and
experienced what is to be experienced there, what
words would the Parisian find to forestall his fate and
what understanding would the Ugandan have of his
incredible delirium? If we live in the mind, we live
in the imagination. It is a commonplace to realize
the extent of artifice in the external world and to say
that Florence is more imaginative than Dublin, that
blue and white Munich is more imaginative than
white and green Havana, and so on; or to say that, in
this town, no single public object of the imagination
exists, while in the Vatican City, say, no public object
exists that is not an object of the imagination. What is
engaging us at the moment has nothing to do with the
external world. We are concerned with the extent of
artifice within us and, almost parenthetically, with the
question of its value.
— Wallace Stevens, "Imagination as Value"

weather report

69 years ago to the day…

September 1, 1939
by W. H. Auden
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
from W. H. Auden, Another Time (1940) 

and how the wind blows today…

The Wind Shifts
by Wallace Stevens

This is how the wind shifts:
like the thoughts of an old human
who still think eagerly
and despairingly.
The wind shifts like this:
like a human without illusions,
who still feels irrational things within her.
The wind shifts like this:
like humans approaching proudly,
like humans approaching angrily.
This is how the wind shifts:
like a human, heavy and heavy,
who does not care.

from Wallace Stevens, Harmonium (1917)