Here we are, folks, with another Read-Along with Rest Note, the program where we peel away the onion layers, the unassuming gray surface of this massive Poem of Quietude :
Poem #14 :
Rest Note is a simple oscillation, an oscillating structure, a polarity, which grows into larger patterns. So the stanzas rhyme ABBA. So the books are divided into 2 chapters and the chapters into 2 halves. In each half, poems #6, 8, 12, and 14 are slightly different (6 instead of 7 stanzas each), and mirror each other; in each half, poem #10 is at the center and of double length (14 stanzas). So poem #14, in this 1st section of the 1st chapter, is the double or mirror-image of poem #6 in the same section. Got that? The sections (like each individual stanza) are "bivalve" : you could fold up the 1st half over the 2nd and they would match.
14.1 : "hollow hoot" - the sound of the train mirrors the "edict in the heart (its hollowness)" of poem #12. "sets its seal/on a limitless night" - cf. the "seal" imagery in poem #6. The sound, the word, dominates/controls the night - yet the night remains limitless. The image is of industrialized civilization dominating the limitless plains. "Plowman leans on a line..." etc. - the next 3 lines describe the State Seal of Minnesota; but the "plowman" is also the poet, looking back, like Orpheus, at what has been put aside, annulled, abandoned. "Red" - ie. of the heart.
14.2 : "Spirits shuttle..." etc. - cf. Hart Crane's poem "Emblems of Conduct", with its repeated refrain about "spiritual gates":
"Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates."
The Native Americans have melded into the spiritual shadows (cf. "Soo Line" - Sioux Line - in #12) like figures in a Virgilian or Homeric underworld. "Vulcan sets/ the type" - the Iron (industrial) Age is set in "types" of vulcanic fire - both typesetting and human character. Only the "rugged" characters seem to dominate ("rugged" - Cleopatra shows up later in the poem, in a rug, as in legend she first appeared before Caesar). "Calypso, Circe" - mirror the "Empress" in the Russian ice world of tyranny in poem #6. "Scalds, scars" - scalds are both "burnings" and "epic poets". Odysseus's scar was his identifying mark.
14.3 : "Wolf-meals" - melds an image from an old Anglo-Saxon lament with a recurrent image in Mandelstam - poet among (Stalin's) wolves, becoming a wolf himself. "mirror-brethren" - poet vying with dictator for the sceptre of spiritual authority. "Medusa-headrest" - a kind of infernal parody of the "rest note" toward which the poem aspires : amalgam of Orpheus-Perseus - victory & authority based on fright, mirror-paralysis. "Slumber" - it's a kind of troubled sleep, based on 1) images of death (engravings of engraving) and 2) displaced, isolated verbal icons or idols ("star" for star) (a phrase from Mandelstam's "Flint Ode").
14.4 : These submerged evocations of Crane, Mandelstam et al. in the underworld are building toward a kind of structural model of a reality which includes some (hidden, effaced) sacrificial action. "As you move..." - echo of Stevens' late poem, "As You Leave the Room", titled thus by Stevens after experience of giving a reading at Harvard, during which bored students walked out. "Leavings" - leaves, poems, relics over the "speechless" (or "limitless") deep of the unspoken. Mirrors poem #6 again, "...hushed... behind a hedge of speech". "A boy who wanted to play..." - Crane again. The identification with the Word itself exacts its price ("its name, its doom").
14.5 : "He frets your opulent asides" - to fret is both to bother and to ornament, to filigree. But who or what is central, what is marginal? The world's opulence is an "aside" to prophetic, poetic speech. Parallels stanza in same position in poem #6 with its elegant toy soldiers). "you feel/closer to home, Ulysses, as you steal" - this passage an attempt to summarize an aspect of reality in which human heroism depends on a prior sacrifice, a prior abject victim. The "encrypted", submerged "burial" is an "abiding score" (cf. Crane's poem on Melville).
14.6 : "you clipped his jasper bandolier" - the victor brings a token from the victim back to Penelope, who "toys with it" in the grass - thus closing the ring (the poet's offering was the original gift). "jasper bandolier" - martial echo of the "banderole" in poem #1 - the mysterious curtain or cloth dividing earthly image of authority - the king, the emperor - from heaven (in Byzantine and medieval art works).