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The Seasons

Symbol Analysis

Traditional Japanese haikus include a "season word," or kigo, that indicates the time ago. Usually the season is implied by words like "blossom" (spring) and "snowy" (winter). "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" is set amid the austere beauty of the colder seasons, winter and autumn. The poem contrasts the blackness or the bird with the whiteness of the snow.

  • Section I: Stevens uses a seemingly random number of mountains – twenty, no more, no less – to make the image of a snowy landscape more concrete. The word "snowy" functions like a "season word."
  • Section III: The metaphor of this section compares the blackbird to a bit player in a dramatic performance called a "pantomime."
  • Section VI: Through metaphor, the icicles are compared to glass, which is personified as "barbaric." Glass – how uncivilized!
  • Section XII: The movement of the river could be a subtle hint that the season has shifted to spring, when the rivers melt.

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