In his poem "Sunday Morning," Stevens writes a work that flows and has musical qualities especially striking in blank verse, though his imagery is once more dense and requires close reading to understand. The poem is one of his earlier works and was published in his Harmonium. The poem is a religious work, and its reference to "Sunday Morning" is to that time when people are supposed to begin contemplating the life of Christ and its meaning to them. In the woman who is pictured in the opening passages we find someone in whom is embodied the tension between body and spirit, between the pleasures of this world and the contemplations of the next. The image is of a woman who has just arisen on a Sunday morning and who is settling down in comfort to enjoy the pleasures of this world, and Stevens evokes these pleasures in striking images centering on the opening words "Complacencies of the peignoir" (1), the woman having just arisen and now settling down in he peignoir without examining her actions or the need for spiritual enlightenment instead of "Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair" (2). These things plus the "green freedom of a cockatoo/ Upon a rug mingle to dissipate/ The holy hush of ancient sacrifice" (3-5). The ancient sacrifice referred to is the crucifixion, and while the first stanza details the behavior of the woman and the lushness of her surroundings, the second raises direct philosophical issues related to how she spends her Sunday mornings:
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? (16-22).
Stevens tends to use color in a symbolic way, and the "green" of the cockatoo evokes the pleasures of this world. The contrast in the lines from the second stanza is between the sunny delights of this world and the shadows and dreams ...