Guns in Connecticut: Wallace Stevens

December 19, 2012

No, he only worked for insurance companies, but Hartford does have an exceptionally high concentration of gun manufacturers.  Colt, founded in 1845, has its headquarters here.  The U.S. Firearms Manufacturing Co., the Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Co., Savage Arms Inc., NDZ Performance, as well as Smith & Wesson are all close by.

Still, it wasn’t the guns made locally that left such a strong impression on him.  It was the guns in Europe that gave him a lifelong antipathy to their employment.  His dread began with World War I: “People said that if the war continued it would end civilization, just as they say now that another such war would end civilization.   It is one thing to talk about the end of civilization and another to feel that the thing is not merely possible but measurably probable.”

When the entry of the United States into War World II was debated, Stevens responded to a questionnaire circulated by the Partisan Review, saying that this should be the very last resort, unless the nation “does so with the idea of dominating the world that comes out of it.”

He personally knew many soldiers in World War II, including those in the French Resistance, such as Ferdinand Auberjonois, the inspiration for “Repetitions of a Young Captain.”  Sergeant Samuel French Morse, with whom he corresponded, would eventually become his biographer.  His niece was married to a soldier; his nephew was one himself.

Stevens’ poem, “A Woman Sings a Song for a Soldier Come Home,” begins with these lines: “The wound kills that does not bleed,/ It has no nurse nor kin to know/ Nor kin to care.”

He would have nothing to say about Sandy Hook, of course.  But its world is one that he knew.

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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