Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens
Section XIII Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
- The poem moves back into the past tense and, perhaps, back into winter (if you think "the river was moving" signals spring).
- It's one of those days that are so dark and cloudy that it looks like evening in the afternoon. Snow is falling and will continue to fall into the night. Stevens is mixing up tenses and time signifiers all over the place.
- We don't know when it will stop snowing. Kind of makes the blackbird seem eternal, doesn't it?
- The blackbird doesn't do anything except sit in the branches of the cedar, a tall evergreen tree. As in the first section, we don't see its body move, although clearly there is now movement in the landscape (the snow).
- You could view the poem as a circle that moves from a snowy landscape at the beginning to human society in the middle and back to the landscape at the end.
- How about this? The poem has thirteen sections, one more than the twelve sections of a circular clock. It's just one of many possibly thought-provoking bits of information for your consideration. As we have seen, time is definitely an issue in this poem.