The poem is filled with beautiful images, such as those that conclude the poem with a description of light, the moon, and star-charts. Simic chose to use fairly simple language throughout, meaning that readers shouldn’t have a difficult time deciphering what he was trying to say. That being said, it is possible to walk away from this poem feeling moved in different ways or perhaps still confused about the poet’s speaker’s choice of a stone.
‘Stone’ by Charles Simic is a beautiful and thoughtful poem about one of the simplest things that nature has to offer—the stone.
The speaker opens the poem by saying that he’d rather be a “stone” than take the form of a tiger or a dove. Stones are calm, cool, and unchanged as they’re tossed around and stepped on. They also evoke curiosity on the part of all those who stare at their cold exteriors. The speaker also notes how inside the stone, there could be anything going on. When they’re hit together, sparks fly. This sight is something that inspired him to imagine light, star-charts, and hidden writing, all safety hidden within the walls of the stone.
You can read the full poem here.
Go inside a stone
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.
In the first lines of ‘Stone,’ the speaker begins by describing how he would choose to be a stone if he was going to change his form. Others might want to be tigers or doves (symbols of violence and peace, respectively), but he’s content with something as simple as a stone. This is a very interesting way to begin a poem, and it is meant to catch the reader’s attention and inspire them to keep reading.
From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
The second stanza helps readers understand why the speaker would have any interest in being a stone. He notes that from the outside, “the stone is a riddle.” It appears mysterious and filled with questions. But, when one takes a closer look, the inside “must be cool and quiet.” It’s this that appeals to the speaker, in addition to its strength.
No matter what one does to it, if a child throws it or a cow steps on it, it remains the same. It’s calm, cool, and “unperturbed.” The speaker presents readers with a lovely image of a stone at the bottom of the river with fish knocking on it, listening. Once again, trying to uncover the riddle.
I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.
The final stanza should elevate the stone in the speaker’s mind further. When two stones are rubbed, he’s seen sparks fly out of them. This he takes as evidence that there’s more going on inside stones than just darkness. There is “a moon shining / From somewhere.” This helps conclude the poem with a beautiful and striking image of light and hope from inside the stone.
The moon crests an imagined hill and provides the inside of the stone, and anyone who could see it, with enough like to make out “strange writings, the star-charts / On the inner walls.” Once again, the speaker is alluding to the possibilities inside the stone. It inspires questions and curiosity on the part of those who throw it, step on it, or listen to it.
Structure and Form
‘Stone’ by Charles Simic is a three-stanza poem that is separated into uneven sets of lines. The first stanza has five lines, the second: nine, and the third: eight. These stanzas are written in free verse. This means that the lines do not conform to a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Despite this, there are a few examples of rhyme within the lines. For instance, the half-rhyme between “all” and “hill” in the third stanza and the perfect rhyme created through the repetition of “stone” at the end of lines one and five in stanza one.
Throughout ‘Stone,’ Simic makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza as well as lines three and four of the second stanza.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “tiger’s tooth” in stanza one and “stone sinks, slow” in stanza two.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. These should trigger the reader’s senses in an interesting way. For example, “Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth. / I am happy to be a stone” and “The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed / To the river bottom.”
Throughout this poem, the poet is attempting to draw attention to the simple, peaceful nature of a stone and the possibilities that lie within. By using such interesting imagery, especially at the end of the poem, he’s trying to inspire readers to appreciate and be curious about the smallest parts of life.
The tone of this poem is thoughtful and passionate. The speaker fully believes in what he’s saying and expresses a thoughtful curiously about the stone he hopes is mirrored in all those who look at them. But, he knows others see the world differently, and that’s something he’s okay with.
It’s unclear who the speaker in this poem is supposed to be. Perhaps, Simic was tapping into his own thoughts about nature when he wrote it, or he was channeling a speaker with different beliefs. Either way, the person discussing the stone is thoughtful, calm, and interested in the mysteries of the world.
The meaning of this poem is that even the simplest and most basic/overlooked things in the world are filled with mystery. They can be beautiful when one takes the time to fully consider and appreciate them.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Stone’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘How happy is the little stone’ by Emily Dickinson – personifies a stone. She describes its rambling adventures, evoking joy and whimsy in the reader.
- ‘Patience Taught by Nature’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning – a reminder to readers that there is a whole world beyond one’s own that is uninfluenced by the dreary, everyday problems of human life.
- ‘The River’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson – a transcendental poem written by the famous American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. How the river helps the poet to meditate upon nature as a whole is the crux of the poem.