by Wallace Stevens
Sunday Morning Happiness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (stanza.line)
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need for some imperishable bliss." (lines 61-62)
The advantage of heaven is that it provides "imperishable bliss," a happiness that lasts and lasts – it’s the Energizer bunny of happiness. "Bliss" is also a more powerful feeling. Bliss is like a big fat piece of chocolate cake; contentment is a nice, healthy dinner. The big question in this quote, though, is whether she actually believes in heaven, or whether it just fills a "need" that she has.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang? (lines 76-82)
The poet chips away at the protagonist’s idea of "imperishable bliss." He thinks the phrase is an oxymoron: there is no happiness without "perishing" or death. He compares the Christian idea of permanent happiness to a tree where the fruit is always ripe and never falls. The whole point of fruit is to fall: that’s how we get new trees. If the fruit never falls, it’s a bit sad, like two people who want to be close but can "never touch."
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Our of their blood, returning to the sky; (lines 96-97)
The pagan men who chant to the sun seem really happy. They’re more than just "content" or "complacent." They carry "paradise" in their blood, instead of needing to look to the sky. In fact, it’s their chanting that makes the sky seem like a paradise. The one problem with this vision of happiness is that it’s a hopeful vision of the future, not a present reality. The protagonist would like to feel like the pagan men, but she doesn’t yet.