“A Rouse for Stevens”
(To Be Sung in a Young Poet’s Saloon)
by Theodore Roethke
Wallace Stevens what’s he done?
He can play the flitter-flad;
He can see the second sun
Spinning through the lordly cloud.
He’s imagination’s prince:
He can plink the skitter-bum;
How he rolls the vocables,
Brings the secret — right in Here!
Wallace, Wallace, wo ist er?
Never met him, Dutchman dear;
If I ate and drank like him,
I would be a chanticleer.
( TOGETHER )
Speak it from the face out clearly:
Here’s a mensch but can sing dandy.
Er ist niemals ausgepoopen,
( AUDIENCE )
Roar ’em, whore ’em, cockalorum,
The Muses, they must all adore him,
Wallace Stevens — are we for him?
Brother, he’s our father!
This rollicking burlesque for young poets in tribute to Stevens just adds to the accumulation of respect Stevens received from other poets. The jaunty style, the setting, the word-play are a fitting tribute to Stevens. The Great Man of Hartford inspired many light verses in his honor. Why? Because Stevens can be so much fun to read. Stevens can be a joy to imitate. “Er ist niemals ausgepoopen,” probably means that “he is never screwed up” to offer a very mild translation.
Roethke is a poet I cherish more with each passing decade. He has affinities with Stevens and even if he’s squeamish about the line “Brother, he’s our father” much of his verse seems to be engaging with Stevens–conversing with him or talking back to him.
Listening: “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s somber organ chords and it’s repetitions make it a perfect autumnal piece. And yet it’s also of a very English pastoral mood. Like “The Lark Ascending” its aim seems to transcend the melancholy and lift the listening spirit. I play this in tribute to Neville Marriner. As my mother aged, the music of Delius and Vaughan Williams moved her more than any others and she reread Thomas Hardy with a fervency that I can identify with.