Domination of Black

Domination of Black is a poem in Wallace Stevens' Harmonium, first published in 1916 and later (1942) selected by him as his best poem for the anthology This is my best.

Domination of Black

At night, by the fire,
The colors of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Repeating themselves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks
Came striding.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground.
I heard them cry—the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight
Or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire,
Turning as the tails of the peacocks
Turned in the loud fire,
Loud as the hemlocks
Full of the cry of the peacocks?
Or was it a cry against the hemlocks?

Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
I saw how the night came,
Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks
I felt afraid.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

It can be compared to imagist paintings of the period such as Klee's "Blaue Nacht", Klee's shades of blue replaced by Stevens' colors of the night. Stevens adds unsettling elements. The poem unfolds like a little horror show. A fire creates flickering images of the colors of bushes and leaves, which themselves turn in the wind. Also the color of heavy hemlocks "came striding", as from the river Styx ("the Stygian hemlocks", in Vendler's phrase). Ambiguous peacocks descend from the hemlocks. Then the poet notices outside his window the planets gathering isomorphically, "Like the leaves themselves", and the night came striding. The threat of darkness (death? suicide?) is palpable: "I felt afraid."

See also "Tea", which, like "Domination of Black", demonstrates "all the troping of leaves through the collection".

Famous quotes containing the words domination of, black and/or domination:

    Let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples of the earth—they are the focus of evil in the modern world.
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    As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.
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    The will to domination is a ravenous beast. There are never enough warm bodies to satiate its monstrous hunger. Once alive, this beast grows and grows, feeding on all the life around it, scouring the earth to find new sources of nourishment. This beast lives in each man who battens on female servitude.
    Andrea Dworkin (b. 1946)