One must have a mind of winterStevens is reflecting upon the inevitability of the "pathetic fallacy" for the imagination. Only a "snow man" could *not* imagine misery in the sound of the wind. Ultimately, the alleged fallacy rebounds upon the critic; a viewer without imagination is "nothing himself," and if he beholds nothing that isn't there, then there is nothing there. Cf. Nietzsche on the world as value-neutral without the philosopher (priest, poet) to create values.
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
He returns to this early statement of one of his great themes in a late poem that I like better, "The Plain Sense of Things":
After the leaves have fallen, we returnFaced by brute facts "as if" there were no imagination possible in the face of unadorned, cold reality, the poet retrenches: "Yet the absence of the imagination had itself to be imagined." One's very sadness demonstrates that one is not, after all, merely an empty recorder of neutral facts. "Inevitability" is not in the landscape, but in the beholder. And I always like the image (perhaps my own imposition) of the poet as "a rat come out to see."
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.
Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as necessity requires.