The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Credences of Summer” is a blank-verse poem divided into ten sections, or cantos, of three five-line stanzas each. The title suggests a set of “truths” or declarations about this season; to Stevens summer was the epitome of the year’s natural fullness, and it is often associated in his poetry with the creative process. This process, as described in canto VII of the poem, is a three-stage or “thrice concentred” activity. “Credences of Summer” is arranged accordingly, with cantos I through III devoted to the moment of experience that the individual artist or writer wishes to express in art or poetry. His cantos IV through VI describe the ordering of that moment in the artist’s consciousness; cantos VII through IX are devoted to the finished articulation or rendering in art of that experience. Canto X, like the final sections in many of Stevens’s longer meditative poems, serves as a coda that reiterates the imaginative process which the poem as a whole defines and exemplifies.

Canto I sets the poem’s tone of contemplation with the pun on the word “broods” and with the declaration that at midsummer “the mind lays by its trouble,” repeated with the addition of “and considers” in the next line. This moment of contemplation begins the poetic act—what Stevens called elsewhere the “act of the mind.” Full of sensation, this moment will be accorded the mind’s full attention, without “evasion” (canto II). The poet must look at a subject directly, not relying...

(The entire section is 615 words.)