The Plot Against the Giant

The Plot Against the Giant

by Wallace Stevens

First Girl
When this yokel comes maundering,
Whetting his hacker,
I shall run before him,
Diffusing the civilest odors
Out of geraniums and unsmelled flowers.
It will check him.

Second Girl
I shall run before him,
Arching cloths besprinkled with colors
As small as fish-eggs.
The threads
Will abash him.

Third Girl
Oh, la…le pauvre!
I shall run before him,
With a curious puffing.
He will bend his ear then.
I shall whisper
Heavenly labials in a world of gutturals.
It will undo him.

___________________

The Plot Against the Giant is a 21 line, three stanza poem. The first stanza is seven lines, the second six lines, and the third eight lines.

In the first stanza, “First Girl” plots to stop (“check”) the giant. We are told he is a “yokel” and is “maundering.” Stevens paints a picture of an unsophisticated and aimless giant. Whetting his hacker, here means sharpening his ax or sword. First Girl diffuses the civilest odors (i.e. she smells good.) Her plot is to get him to stop and smell something good and new – “unsmelled flowers.”

In the second stanza, “Second Girl” plots to confuse and confound the giant. How does she do this? She runs before him with “arching” cloths.. as small as fish eggs. It’s hard to miss the sexual innuendo here.

In the third stanza, “Third Girl” plans to “undo” the giant. The girls believe the giant to be overmatched. The French “le pauvre!” translates to “poor man.” He does not stand a chance. The sexual innuendo in the third stanza is less subtle. Third Girl engages in “curious puffing,” which then leads to whispering “Heavenly labials in a world of gutturals.” Labials is, of course, a double entendre.

This is a poem of seduction. As the poem is only told from the perspective of the three girls, we do not know whether or not they actually succeeded. Of note: Wallace Stevens was a large man. Perhaps the poem was written as a joke against himself, or alternatively, as a form of wish-casting imagination.

Who is Wallace Stevens?

Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 – August 2, 1955) was an American modernist poet. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, educated at Harvard and then New York Law School, and he spent most of his life working as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems in 1955.

Stevens’s first period of writing begins with his 1923 publication of the Harmonium collection, followed by a slightly revised and amended second edition in 1930. His second period occurred in the eleven years immediately preceding the publication of his Transport to Summer, when Stevens had written three volumes of poems including Ideas of OrderThe Man with the Blue GuitarParts of a World, along with Transport to Summer. His third and final period of writing poems occurred with the publication of The Auroras of Autumn in the early 1950s followed by the release of his Collected Poems in 1954 a year before his death.

His best-known poems include “The Auroras of Autumn“, “Anecdote of the Jar“, “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock“, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream“, “The Idea of Order at Key West“, “Sunday Morning“, “The Snow Man“, and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird“.

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