"Sunday Morning"

Sunday Morning: Rebirth

In stanza six of Wallace Stevens’s poem Sunday Morning, the speaker emphasizes the importance of rebirth, a reincarnation completely separate from one's past self. At the beginning of the section, she asks, “Is there no change of death in paradise? / Does ripe fruit never fall?” (76-77) Here, the speaker muses about the mysterious afterlife: does one simply remain in a dreamlike state of existence? This is doubtful because just as perfectly ripe fruit must eventually fall from trees, even human beings in the prime of their lives must eventually fall from grace. The implicit question in this stanza, then, is what exactly comes next for the vanquished residing in a limbo state removed from life?

The speaker scoffs disparagingly at the thought of lost souls lounging around after death, “pick[ing] the strings of [their] insipid lutes!” (87) Although this is a fairly common image used when describing death, the word “insipid” suggests that this representation of the afterlife is far from the speaker’s intended depiction. She also laments the thought of the dead being representative of the entire human race: “Alas, that they should wear our colors there, / The silken weavings of our afternoons” (85-6). Instead of spending the rest of eternity fixated on their past lives, these souls defer to beauty, the daughter of death. The “mothers” referred to in the last line of the stanza are the mothers of future regenerations. They are “waiting” to start anew without the hindrances of the past.