From Wallace Steven’s “Examination of the Hero in Time of War”

Wallace Stevens, magnifico American poet of the mid-twentieth century, a giant truly whom general readers are only now beginning to appreciate. For Stevens, Imagination was the supreme faculty of mankind. Utterly mysterious, transformative, redemptive and given to only a privileged few.

I opened his collected poems yesterday as an antidote to the drear, oppressive dailiness life sometimes acquires and randomly landed on this poem. Just a snatch, just a teaser, but you must read the whole thing. It was written in the gloom and slaughter of WWI, yet I immediately thought of Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine, Somalia and so much more. Great poets are always as current and of more profound interest than the “news.”


Unless we believe in the hero, what is there

To believe? Incisive what, the fellow

of what good. Devise. Make him of mud,

For every day. In a civiler manner,

Devise, devise, and make him of winter’s

Iciest core, a north star, central

In our oblivion of summer’s

Imagination, the golden rescue:

The bread and wine of mind, permitted

in an ascetic room ….”


It would be absurd to try to explicate.


But the nut, if you can crack it, golden boys and girls:

Imagination, the golden rescue:

The bread and wine of mind, permitted

in an ascetic room ….”



About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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