Stevens: Sunday Moring
Another facet of Stevens’ commentary on disorder stems from his complicated relationship with religion. “Sunday Morning” deals with complicated space that is left when the structure of religion is removed. In the early 20th century society began to move away from religion as one of the main structures that guided the organization of society. So too Stevens found himself disenchanted with the Christianity that guided his earlier life. In his book Opus Posthumous, Stevens writes, “After one has abandoned a belief in God, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption." In the absence of religion Stevens turned to poetry as a method of making sense of the disorder of the world.
In Sunday Morning a woman confronts her guilt, confusion, and reservations about organized religion while eating a late breakfast on a Sunday morning. The third section traces the existence of the divine from God to God on earth or Jesus to divinity’s existence in humanity.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
If humanity is divine, the woman asks, then earth would be paradise and if earth is paradise then paradise is temporary because life, is temporary. The temporality of existences is reinforced in the fifth section which names Death as the mother of beauty. All beauty is the result of change and change requires a start and a finish. The ever present question of mortality is often assuaged by religion, but when religion is removed there is nothing to mollify that fear. Sunday morning asks us to see the beauty of death and reminds us that it is linked to renewal. There is, perhaps, some divinity to be found in the unstructured void left by rejected religion.
The woman rejects religion but has no revelations and finds no alternative method for wading through the disorder and confusion of the human existence, she is only reminded of the frailty of the natural world and the precariousness of the future. This question can be applied to the larger body of Modernists works that seek to explain or inquire into the nature of disorder in modern world: when we reject the structures of thought that previously kept disorder at bay, then what are we left with and how do we proceed?