"Metaphors of a Magnifico"
is a poem from Wallace Stevens
's first book of poetry, Harmonium
(1923). It was first published in 1918, so it is in the public domain. The poem experiments with perspective.It explores the differencebetween detached reportage in its various foci (on a group of twentymen, on one man, one bridge, twenty bridges, one village, twentyvillages), on one hand, and immediate lived experience (the firstwhite wall of the village rises through the fruit trees) , on theother hand. Stevens' preference for the latter, addressed in hisscornful treatment of William Carlos Williams
in "", is what commentators have in mind when theyspeak of his sensualism. Magnifico may be one of those men crossingthe bridge, shifting from viewing himself and the world from variousexternal perspectives to the first-person viewpoint ("Of what was it Iwas thinking"?). What declares itself is subjective experience. Themeanings that enable objective description of the world do not declarethemselves.
Buttel cites the poem to support his claim that Stevens has the Cubists'
abilityto see different perspectives of an object simultaneously: "One must assimilate the multiplicity here," he writes about the various bridge crossings, "just as the viewer of Duchamp's painting must assimilate the fragmentation and multiplicity of the nude descending the staircase."