French philosopher, mathematician (analytical geometry, algebra, equations, etc); referred to as “Father of Modern Philosophy.” Famous quote” “Cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore, I am”). 

Descartes held a wide variety of posts in his lifetime, including student of law (his father’s wishes, though Descartes did not enjoy it and eventually abandoned his law studies), student of military engineering, soldier (in the Dutch Republic), tutor, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer (studied at Leiden University). Descartes died in 1650 in Sweden from pneumonia. Descartes presented himself as a devout Catholic but has been accused of atheism and deism. 

Eleanor Cook reads Stevens’s poem “Solitaire under the Oaks” as being directly connected to Descartes. She writes: “The word ‘cards’ plays on des cartes (Fr. ‘playing cards’) and Rene Descartes’ Principia philosophiae and Les Meditations. Stevens owned and annotated Leon Roth’s 1937 Descartes’ Discourse on Method [. . .] and quoted it in 1943” (311). Descartes is a symbol of reason and “[n]either Coleridge’s imagination nor Descartes’ reason takes precedence” (Cook, reading on Notes, 217). Cook also provides insight into Stevens’s “Winter Bells,” reading it as “an exploration of the subject of ‘Notes toward a Supreme Fiction,; though a rather ineffectual one” (100). She reads the line “regulations of his spirit” as connected to Descartes and sees Stevens’s selection of Descartes and his philosophy of reason as appropriate in his quest for truth. Cook later points out an additional connection between Coleridge and Descartes in their use of the phrase “I am.” Since both had added meaning to this phrase and with Wallace Stevens’s extensive reading of both, the parallels between the three writers is a bit clearer. 


“Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, It Must Be Abstract”  line 73: “In Eden was the father of Descartes”

“Life on a Battleship” line 33: “Descartes:”


Cook, Eleanor. A Reader’s Guide to Wallace Stevens. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007. 204. Google Book. Web.

Rene Descartes