In Wallace Stevens' "The Plain Sense of Things", the meaning of every sentence, the sense of every verse, every image, is clear and straightforward; nothing is impressionistic or vague - except for the last verse of the second stanza:

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The best I could come up with, which is pretty lame, is: "In this minor house, there is no chance of anyone wearing a turban walking across the floors, as they might across the great floors of a major house."

That can't be what the verse means (can it?). It is a beautiful poem, but the seeming obscurity of this verse makes its beauty, for me anyway, seem incomplete. Can anyone enlighten me?

1 Answer 1


The second verse continues the idea introduced in the first verse concerning the contrasting loss of creativity /imagination and consequent diminished quality of greatness. Thus "This great structure has become a minor one" And in the next line is the mundane image of "No turban walks across the lessened floors" instead of the creative imaginative image with for example some great oriental Potentate, or Prince regally striding across pristine palatial floors in their Florid, flamboyant and fancy turbans instead .

  • You are probably right. Everyone I've discussed the poem with says pretty much the same thing. After all, what else could it mean? But then, at least in my humble opinion, it is a flaw, a lapse, which mars a poem whose effect rests on the depths to which simple, declarative sentences can take you. Turbans do not walk. (People wearing turbans walk.) Sure, in poetry turbans may walk, or fly, or lecture on Coleridge. But not in this poem. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 13:48

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