Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens
Section VII Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
- The speaker addresses the citizens of a town (Haddam) in his home state of Connecticut. His tone sounds like one of the Biblical prophets from the Old Testament. Come to think of it, "Haddam" also has a Biblical ring to it. Finally, "Haddam" contains the word "Adam" – see where we're going?
- He faults the people of Haddam for imagining "golden birds," while the blackbird is right there in front of them. This message amounts to "love the one you're with"…except with birds.
- Further, the blackbird walk around the feet of the lovely women of Haddam, so, really, how could you not notice them!
- Stevens could be referring to people who chase wealth, an empty idea, and neglect reality. The golden bird doesn't really exist, but the blackbird is right there. Obviously, they should be enjoying the blackbird.
- He also suggests that the men of Haddam don't appreciate the true value of their women, either. They are too busy chasing other things.
- The thinness of the men of Haddam is a symbol of their spiritual poverty.
- Unlike other birds, blackbirds are not very afraid of people.