Robert Frost argues that a poem should “end in a clarification of life” which provides the reader (and writer) with “a momentary stay against confusion.” For many modern thinkers religion no longer adequately answers the significant metaphysical questions about life’s meaning; and thus the established beliefs of past centuries are “falling down falling down falling down.” Subsequently many modern writers turn to art as a means of making sense of the world and creating order in the world. Wallace Stevens, Edna Millay, and Gertrude Stein are three modern writers who share the belief that the world is characterized by confusion for most people. This essay will examine these artist’s definitions and descriptions of confusion in the modern world and will explore how these writers use art as a “momentary stay against” this “confusion.” 450 bushmaster ammo

In her novel To The Lighthouse Virginia Woolf succinctly summarizes the modern view that nature (and experience in general) is unsympathetic to the human need for order. Woolf writes: “Did Nature supplement what man advanced?…Listening from the upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with lightning could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves disported themselves like amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of reason?” When turning to nature in hopes of finding answers and comfort, one hears only their own echo or a horrible beast writhing in confusion. Similarly, both Stevens and Millay describe nature as savage and indifferent to the human sufferer. In Steven’s poem “Anecdote of the Jar” he describes nature as a “wild” and “slovenly wilderness.” Likewise, Millay, in her poem “I will put Chaos into fourteen lines,” depicts nature as being opposed to the “sweet Order” that the human heart desires. She describes Chaos, presumably a representation of the natural world when unrestrained by artistic formulation, as a wild male figure that tries to “twist, and ape/ Flood, fire, and demon” his way out of the confines of her poem.

However, both Stevens and Millay possess a desire to find order, despite the fact that they see only chaos and confusion in the world. These individuals fulfill this desire for order and meaning by writing poems that provide a “momentary stay against confusion.” Life is clarified and given definition as Stevens places “a jar” “upon a hill” in the “wilderness” of “Tennessee;” and as he writes a poem about placing this jar in the wilderness. He states that the placement of the jar on the wild hill “made the slovenly wilderness/ Surround that hill.” The jar and the poem accomplish a similar feat: they both make the chaos of nature and experience less confusing by giving it definition and form. In this way nature is tamed: for “the wilderness rose up to it/ And sprawled around, no longer wild.” The poem, like the jar, has a form that is balanced and orderly compared to the sprawling birds, bushes, and weeds (of various shapes and sizes) that spring up at random, growing (and going) in every direction, around the jar. The poem is composed of three stanzas; each stanza consists of four lines; and each line has eight syllables. Human experience is rarely this organized and orderly. A jar is usually made of clear glass; the lines around the jar are clearly defined, even, and of the same length; the top and the bottom of the jar are generally perfectly round; and the sides of a jar are of the same substance and shape. Stevens writes that the jar provided a sort of “port in air”; this shapely object offered the mind, hungry for order, relief and perspective amidst an otherwise disorderly scene.