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Analysis and comments on A High-Toned Old Christian Woman by Wallace Stevens

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Comment 8 of 68, added on February 13th, 2012 at 9:35 AM.

Excellent! Got a real pleasure..!!

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Comment 7 of 68, added on February 11th, 2012 at 10:53 AM.

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Comment 6 of 68, added on August 23rd, 2010 at 12:00 AM.
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Death Future,age national in inside guest accident opportunity
characteristic agree vital aim citizen call usually security cut candidate
image pull help either book master faith tradition majority speed tape
holiday instruction commercial comparison indeed study itself couple poor
over need repeat data housing touch yet before line bind motor drop prefer
point issue concentrate leave address data iron either tree promise reflect
east strength forest decide spot that confidence freedom simple terrible
origin please rain clothes noise much quarter present love assume school
partner acid organization front southern sound suggestion although

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Comment 5 of 68, added on August 13th, 2010 at 12:51 PM.
Difficult to grasp anything

The diction of the poem is too difficult for me to understand. I dont get
the meaning of the poem except the first three lines.

Rajesh poudel from Nepal
Comment 4 of 68, added on December 10th, 2008 at 2:06 AM.

Generally, people comment that Stevens's poems have very weird presentation
and they find it very difficult to get to the bottom of them, for the
surface structure and the diction which the poet uses is so unique to him
that only an imaginative and creative mind can endeavor to get to closer to
that meaning.
First of all, I would like to comment on the title itself, for instead of
saying 'devout' or 'devoted' , he says 'high-toned' which indicates towards
the deliberate attempt to undermine the concept of religion which is so
strong among the followers.
Secondly, a woman is being spoken to and the speaker very respectfully uses
the salutation 'madame' which means that the speaker is aware of the
receptive qualities of the addresee and he is aware of the fact that the
figurative language that is used in the poem is reaching with meaning and
the listener is understanding that. The poet has a particular group of
audience in his mind.
Santayna's concept has been repeated in the opening lines of the poem. The
words very intelligently suggest that the poet is being satirical as well
as didactic and informative when he says, 'poetry is a supreme fiction..'
however, the following lines which talk about building a haunted heaven,
and raising conscience, with the examples of palms, sexophones, etc.
suggest that a poet and a true devotee are on the same path and they both
are looking for the bliss which in fact is not different. 'We agree in
principle' is clear enough to understand the concept.
The reference to the penance(flagallants), and ..parade, etc. indicate that
the religious followers try to present their faith in various ways but they
have not been able to attain to the truth which they have been after. The
alliterative line'tink-a tank....' shows that there is only noise and
clamor and they are not ready to understand the very fact that word is more
important and that too when the feeling behind it well understood.
'Wink most when widows wince' is the last line which has to be understood
from various angles. If we go throug the meaning wink refers to shine and
wince to scorn or hurt. The plural 'widows' could not be for the high-toned
Old Christian Woman because it could be a metaphor for the orthodox and
conservative religious people who when in pain or hurt try to take shelter
in their religion and the religion shines more. On the other hand 'woman'
itself can be a metaphor for the weak, susceptible, or easily influenced
but stubborn people who do not try to understand that both poetry and
religious hymns or gospels are fiction.
The poet seems to be trying to bring these two branches closer and bridge
that gap which has kept them wide apart.
This is perhaps one of the best works by the poet, and it definitely makes
an intelligent reader marvel at the skill of the poet.


Raja Sharma from Nepal
Comment 3 of 68, added on February 12th, 2006 at 11:08 PM.

Key to poem is first line and closing lines. Since poetry is the supreme
fiction, the "fictive things" of the ending are poems (or poets). They
wink as they will meaning they mock what they wish despite people's
sensitivities to criticism of thier holy icons or whatever is holy or
unquestionable to them. The poet's job is to crack these petrified codes
and institutions. Thus they wink as they will and wink most when widows
wince, meaning yes, the poet's subversive attitude will upset the ultra
conservative. As for the middle of the poem, its not all clear but its
definitely anti-religious, suggests that any moral code is relative, and
makes fun of the flagellants who whipped themselves out of religious
passion and a desire to mortify this world and its pleasures, something
stevens could never approve.

Andy from United States
Comment 2 of 68, added on April 5th, 2005 at 6:38 PM.

I think this poem does have a meaning -- even Stevens' silliest poems have
meanings. "Poetry is the supreme fiction" seems weird, especially in
relation with what "Anecdote of the Jar" and "The Snow Man" say -- unless
he is talking about the other poetry that he was trying to get away from.
But he says that even poetry is more real than these religions built on
moral law or its opposite. When the moral law (embodied in the Christian
woman) is gone, poetry can be the truth -- with no constraints -- and may
become a religion of itself. Poetry will wink when religion is gone. Sad
point of view, that he can never be "free" in his poetic expression if he
has moral constraints.

juniper from United States
Comment 1 of 68, added on February 18th, 2005 at 2:04 PM.

i dont understand this poem...i think that it does not clearly represent

Sara Zimerman

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Information about A High-Toned Old Christian Woman

Poet: Wallace Stevens
Poem: A High-Toned Old Christian Woman
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 10227 times
Poem of the Day: Oct 29 2007

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