|The Old Guitarist, 1903/04, Oil on Panel, Pablo Picasso, The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA|
One The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, "You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar." And they said to him, "But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves, A tune upon the blue guitar, Of things exactly as they are." Two I cannot bring a world quite round, Although I patch it as I can. I sing a hero's head, large eye And bearded bronze, but not a man, Although I patch him as I can And reach through him almost to man. If a serenade almost to man Is to miss, by that, things as they are, Say that it is the serenade Of a man that plays a blue guitar. Three A tune beyond us as we are, Yet nothing changed by the blue guitar; Ourselves in tune as if in space, Yet nothing changed, except the place Of things as they are and only the place As you play them on the blue guitar, Placed, so, beyond the compass of change, Perceived in a final atmosphere; For a moment final, in the way The thinking of art seems final when The thinking of god is smoky dew. The tune is space. The blue guitar Becomes the place of things as they are, A composing of senses of the guitar. Four Tom-tom c'est moi. The blue guitar And I are one. The orchestra Fills the high hall with shuffling men High as the hall. The whirling noise Of a multitude dwindles, all said, To his breath that lies awake at night. I know that timid breathing. Where Do I begin and end? And where, As I strum the thing, do I pick up That which momentarily declares Itself not to be I and yet Must be. It could be nothing else.
Stevens had remarked: "To a large extent, the problems of poets are the problems of painters and poets must often turn to the literature of painting for a discussion of their own problems." He was inspired by Picasso's quote that a painting is 'une somme de destructions' (a sum of destructions).