online: 20 september 2004
modified: 13 october 2004

19 september 2004 thought as the mother of things

About 17:00 Kenwood. Outdoor cafe in the cool air of autumn. 4 young swans on pond 1 showing their first white feathers at the base of their necks. 4 adult swans in pond 2 are, for once, walking on the bank. They are eating grass.

As I walked round Kenwood meadow I was moved by the slightly sombre colours of blue rain cloud above green trees about to lose their leaves and glinting in the weak sunlight... I felt this was a significant thing - but significance exists in minds not in things...

...I had been thinking of the declaration of Wallace Stevens 'no ideas but in things'* and I was wondering if even so fine a poet as he could be driven by his time into materialism? But no, for I realised that, in linking ideas to objects, he was more likely to be opposing the dualism that (in the scientific declaration that matter is the only reality) separates the whole into two parts, one real one imaginary. Yes, I believe that what both Stevens and Williams were doing was to reconceive of thought as the context, or the matrix (the mother), of the things we call things.

*or was it W C Williams who said 'no ideas but in things'? Or did they both?

Yes, it was Williams. What Stevens wrote was the title of the last poem in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (Faber and Faber, London 1955):


and the last line of the poem is:

......It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

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