The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

Woman Reading by Candlelight by Peter Ilsted

Woman Reading by Candlelight by Peter Ilsted

Both of these, the painting and the poem, make me happy. I wish I had more moments like this, the house empty, the world calm, losing myself in a book. It doesn’t seem to happen so very often these days. Like Stevens’ reader I long to be the scholar I long to live in a calm world. But right now my world is very much chaos and picture books.

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

by Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

(from “Harmonium,” 1923)

5 Responses to The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

  1. Jennifer G Miller January 18, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    I love that painting! and I completely agree that those quiet times are harder to snatch–actually rare, aren’t they?

  2. Bearing January 18, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    The detail I like in that painting is the total blankness in the mirror. To me it says that this reader has “lost herself” in this moment, with the book.

  3. Melanie Bettinelli January 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    There are so many fabulous paintings of women reading but this one seemed to go with the poem. The candlelight creates that little space around the reader, isolating her in her own world. The soft palate with grays and blacks speaks to me of calm. It really gets that sense of night and isolation and the reader only seen in profile, becoming almost faceless. And yet the detail of her lips slightly parted, yes, totally absorbed. And yes, the blank mirror is a wonderful detail.

  4. Marilyn H January 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    So beautiful. Thank you for these posts

  5. Enbrethiliel January 23, 2014 at 7:04 am #


    Thanks for pointing out the blank mirror! It got me to look around and to notice the empty chair, which also speaks volumes.

    Last week, I watched a scene in which a man is told he has an inoperable tumour. When the screen cut to him, he was off-center, so that you notice that there is an empty chair beside him. It really emphasises that how isolated he feels from the people who are supposed to be closest to him, including his own wife.

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