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Word Count: 555
Wallace Stevens and Religion This essay offers an explication of Wallace Stevens poem A High-Toned Old Christian Woman Addressing A High-Toned Old Christian Woman the speaker proposes poetry as the supreme fiction line 1 rather than God or religion Stevens considered religion as fictions imaginative creations that made it possible for people to feel at home in a world that is not naturally homelike and hospitable Thus the speakers statement suggests that religious fictions have no greater status than fictions of the imagination that include sensuality and play Yet in his announcement that poetry is the supreme fiction the speaker proclaims the supremacy of the human creative imagination Religion the moral law line 2 has built churches populated with the bodied souls of worshippers and from that built a haunted heaven line 3 populated with disembodied souls Religion plays on peoples moral sensibilities as their deliberations and actions involving right and wrong are decided and resolved through ceremony and ritual converted into palms line 11 leaving them hankering for hymns line 5 In line 6 the speaker is saying that he and the old woman agree that indeed there is a fundamental human need for receiving guidance for living and an elemental human desire for giving thankful praise through worship He comically proposes an alternative to religion The opposing law line 7 to the prayers and hymns and poems that takes the form of a parade or festivalno doubt a mocking hint of the festivities that celebrated Christs entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday The speaker surmises that even our most immoral acts can also be glorified and made purposeful through ceremony and ritual converted into palms line 11 by staging them in an appropriate carnival-like setting With respect to his fictive universe and hers he tells the old woman he has matched human need for human need ritual for ritual palm for palm line 12 bringing them both back
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