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“Domination of Black”

The poem “ Domination of Black” by Wallace Stevens takes place on an early autumn night, focusing at one point on a person in a room thinking about darkness, while a fire is going in a fireplace nearby. A few images appear repetitively, which tie the poem together more clearly.

The poem begins by describing the setting: night time, by a fire indoors. Then explaining that the colors of the fallen leaves and bushed nearby outside have changed color. This is visible to the person inside by the fireplace. From a deeper meaning, this may be explained by the way leaves and branches appear different as they are looked at while pulled upward or about in the wind. Here a different appearance is achieved before falling back into place as normal. From here a reference is made to the color of the large hemlocks. Their color is said to be striding, in other words walking, almost as if they are getting closer to the indoors. “Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks came striding.” (Stevens 68) From here an image of a cry of peacocks is heard. Their cry is uncertain at this point, while much is left open for interpretation.

Next the colors of the peacock’s tails are being explained in terms of the leaves that have fallen and are turning in the wind. A specific reference to the twilight wind is made. “Turning in the wind, In the twilight wind.” (Stevens 68) This “twilight” setting may prove to be a negative effect on the situation overall.

Following this the leaves are being described as sweeping across the room. The scene is made clearer by being compared to the way the leaves flew from the branches of the hemlocks of above, quickly down to the ground below. “Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks.” (Stevens 68) Once again a cry by the peacocks is heard. This time the reason for it is given. Their cry being caused by either the leaves, or a cry against the twilight. At this point is seems as though the reason would lie more within the twilight than simply the leaves falling and moving about. At this point it may begin to be considered as a period of uncertainty, or decline in some form, before the following day is on its way.

Following this a period of turning is introduced. The branches and thus leaves were said to be turning in the wind, as the flames were moving about in the fireplace. Once again the peacocks are brought in, this time their cry is related to what seems to be the noise made by the fire burning. Possibly due to the sound and cracking and splitting of the logs due to the extreme heat of the fire. Their cry could however be toward the hemlock trees, which in some way could be considered poisonous.

Next, planets out the window are being described as being in a pattern similar to the leaves that have fallen on the ground below. A reference between the leaves turning and the planets moving is used to describe how night has come, due to the planets revolving. “Out of the window, I saw how the planets gathered like the leaves themselves.” (Stevens 69) Night is then said to be walking, striding like the large hemlocks, where the person shows some sort of fear. From here the person remembers the cry of the peacocks, which seems to act as an omen of warning toward the poisonous hemlock trees while it is twilight.

Stevens, Wallace. “Domination of Black” Scholes, Robert, Nancy R. Comley, and Gregory L. Ulmer, eds. Text Book: An Introduction to Literacy Language. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. 68-69.


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