Read-Along with Rest Note

Poem #9 : Rest Note as a whole is built to some extent on patterns of 3 and 9, so as #9, this section brings the first full sequence to a close. And it's a winding-down, in a hesitant, doubtful mood. Can poetry ever escape its solipsistic, irrelevant, self-indulgent prison-house, in the midst of a social world of suffering, inequality, injustice?

Much of the opening of the poem concerns a "Lazarus" figure, and in this section he's tempted to go back to the sleep of the grave from which he has heretofore been stirring. The poem circles back, curves downward, and ends in a supplication.

9.1 : "Raindrops curve" etc. - the figure of micro/macrocosm (windowpane/retina), inside/outside (camera obscura) - the general oscillating movement which runs through the whole poem. Writing returns to "crumbling moss" (ms.).

9.2 : "iron ball" - a ball & chain dragging at the poet's "foot". Contrasted with awkward "toes" which do not dance, but tromp, oblivious to the empty canyon they inhabit. Poetry's dilemmas of solipsism. "coyote jest" - bad pun on "Quixote geste" - acting out of chivalric delusions.

9.3 : "lead mines" - Teddy Roosevelt (the "chivalrous" Prez) has begun a risky journey which seems to have "led" him to a deadening lead mine. But he will be a brave Teddy bear. "El Dorado"... etc. - it was not a fool's gold dream which led him on, a dream of riches. "compunctions of the scullery" - ie., to contrast with Wallace Stevens' "complacencies of the peignoir". Stevens (in the epicurean-Romantic, post-religious mode of "Sunday Morning") is contrasted with Roosevelt's crusading-heroic attitude. "scullery" - faint echo of Golgotha (cf. previous motifs of Last Supper "table"); "sanguine" - ie., simultaneously hopeful/bloody.

9.4 : "Horse-sense", etc. - poets as Pegasus-knights, as participating in a historical remnant-holdover of domineering feudal mentality ("dominion"). "Spent millions" - both the money squandered by fraud & decadence, and the worn-out multitudes who subsist in that debilitated condition.

9.5 : "a ring/ of blue... corncobs" - sort of a synthetic image. Blue corn - Indian corn. Corncobs - old country poverty. spontaneous - both the horses bolting from the Derby starting line, and a sense of "spontaneous combustion" - the silos exploding. "squads of backs..." etc. - Lazarus-Hobo contrasts Teddy's fatherly-chivalric exhortations to rugged individualism ("character, my son!") with a different memory, the sense of "characters" as letters and numbers, printed on the shirts (& backs) of the chain gangs. This is the would-be heroic poem's dilemma.

9.6 : "Someone swings a scythe..." etc. - the sun, mysteriously, swings a scything shadow as it crosses through time & day. This is a "draconian sway" - far more elemental than human dominions. "chameleon/mimics a lemon" - ... ie. but it's not simply the sun, it's a "someone" - a person, a being (inverting, converting the power of the sun, the way "chameleon" punningly inverts a (sunny) "lemon". Who is this round someone, now "scything" the eye? (A gesture toward Blake - "a tear is an Intellectual thing / and a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King".) "windrow" - combining the "windows" of the eye and the "windrows" created by the scythe.

9.7 : This stanza somewhat shucks off the anxious formulations of previous stanzas, in favor of a personal supplication. Following up on the sense of personal presence in previous stanza ("someone"), TR makes a direct appeal to "Edith" (his wife). Let the curves end in a smile. "Be a nine, San Juan" - no longer the curve of a physical battlefield (San Juan Hill), but the spiral of a spiritual goal (cf. Dante : "Beatrice is a nine." San Juan de la Cruz was a mystical poet.) "Draw tight..." - the race is replaced by a "trace" - the inward discipline of a (horse's) harness.

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