“Farewell Without a Guitar”—in which a lover accepts and laments the end of an affair—is a short lyric in five variable-meter, three-line stanzas. In typical Wallace Stevens fashion, it works essentially by indirection; that is, Stevens lets metaphors and images represent the feelings involved in the situation. The poem is nevertheless eloquent and evocative, and every nuance of feeling is shaped with subtlety.
The title begins the articulation of mood. “Farewell Without a Guitar” is an inversion of a popular title for Romantic lyric piano pieces, “Songs Without Words.” These are “Words Without Music”—the unaccompanied lyric poem. Stevens implies that solitary words can reflect and induce moods as well as music. The title also indicates that the poem is a statement of parting, final but wistful: The persona wishes that it had not come to this, but he accepts it with a sigh.
The first stanza documents the loss. This marks the end of “spring’s bright paradise”—of all the hopes and expectations caught up in the onset of the romance, of all the fantasies triply multiplied by the three terms, each of which separately connotes hope, growth, flowering, and fruition. The tree planted in that soil comes to this end: The “thousand-leaved green” reaches the end of despair and comes fluttering down. The persona bids farewell, significantly to “his days.” The suggestion is that he now has nothing left but nights....
(The entire section is 507 words.)