Wallace Stevens watches the sunset over the city and listens to the Hog River behind 61 Woodland Street
Of Hartford in a Purple Light
A long time you have been making the trip
From Havre to Hartford, Master Soleil,
Bringing the lights of Norway and all that.
A long time the ocean has come with you,
Shaking the water off, like a poodle,
That splatters incessant thousands of drops,
Each drop a petty tricolor. For this,
The aunts in Pasadena, remembering,
Abhor the plaster of the western horses,
Souvenirs of museums. But, Master, there are
Lights masculine and lights feminine.
What is this purple, this parasol,
This stage-light of the Opera?
It is like a region full of intonings.
It is Hartford seen in a purple light.
A moment ago, light masculine,
Working, with big hands, on the town,
Arranging its heroic attitudes.
But now as in an amour of women
Purple sets purple round. Look, Master,
See the river, the railroad, the cathedral…
When male light fell on the naked back
Of the town, the river, the railroad were clear.
Now, every muscle slops away.
Hi! Whisk it, poodle, flick the spray
Of the ocean, ever-freshening,
On the irised hunks, the stone bouquet.
Frogs Eat Butterflies, Snakes Eat Frogs, Hogs Eat Snakes, Men Eat Hogs
It is true that the rivers went nosing like swine,
Tugging at banks, until they seemed
Bland belly-sounds in somnolent troughs,
That the air was heavy with the breath of these swine,
The breath of turgid summer, and
Heavy with thunder’s rattapallax,
That the man who erected this cabin, planted
This field, and tended it awhile,
Knew not the quirks of imagery,
That the hours of his indolent, arid days,
Grotesque with this nosing in banks,
This somnolence and rattapallax,
Seemed to suckle themselves on his arid being,
As the swine-like rivers suckled themselves
While they went seaward to the sea-mouths.
Here’s a map to get a visual of the area. You can see how the river meanders through the neighborhood. Scroll in or out. See satellite view too: