I often find myself more engaged in the literature of the Bible when I hear Dr. Sexson read to us passages in class. I enjoyed being submerged in the text of the Story of Susanna in the Book of Daniel, and quite enjoyed reading and understanding it. However, the poem of Peter Quince at the Clavier by Wallace Stevens was a bit more challenging to unravel a meaning to compare. So, what do I do? I YouTube it. And I find a man reciting it, much like Dr. Sexson recites Bible passages in class.
As I read the story of Susanna, I understood that she was the victim of the elders lies. I looked at her as a character who was cheated out of a chance to speak her side of the story. But I never thought of her physical appearance. The Peter Quince poem by Wallace Stevens put the Story of Susanna into a new perspective for me. I looked at why Susanna was the victim. Why did the elders choose to threaten her unless she had sex with them? Why did she have have the integrity as a women to say no? She knew truth would prevail. Wallace Stevens description of her physical appearance describes her as more than the victim. But a woman of strength, rather. She did not give in to the threats of the elders for committing adultery. Much like Joseph did not give in to Potiphar's wife's threats when he refused her in the Book of Genesis. It was important to Susanna, like Joseph, to preserve their innocence.
Also, Wallace Stevens uses the description of music to set the tone for his poem from the beginning. It doesn't have to be the sound of music technically, but rather the feeling that is sprung when music is heard.
"Music is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what I feel,
Here in this room, desiring you,
Thinking of your blue- shadowed silk,
Is music. It is like the strain
Waked in the elders by Susanna:"
The description of music to set the tone of the poem is used throughout the verses of the whole poem.
"Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death's ironic scrapings."
In this verse, Stevens uses Susanna's "music" to represent her devotion to sticking to the truth, and in the end, her truth kept her alive, and sent the elders to death instead of her, for their lies.
"Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
Came her attendant Byzantines."
"And then, the simpering Byzantines
Fled, with a noise like tambourines."
These passages show significant success at describing music or sound, to set the tone. The first verse describes the chaos of Susanna's attendant coming and seeing her with the Elders, and the noise like tambourines is used to show this.
And the next passage uses the same noise of tambourines to describe when the loud mouthed attendant runs off to tell on Susanna and all hell will break loose.
-------->The YouTube Video of Peter Quince at the Clavier that I viewed