The poem “The House Was Just Twinkling In The Moon Light” is a perfect example of Modernism, written by Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946). This poem may well be written about any house in the French countryside. The other option that it is about the house she grew up in Pennsylvania.
Gertrude Stein in 1934 photographed by Carl van Vechten
Image source: Wikipedia
Who was Gertrude Stein?
Gertrude Stein was born on 3 February 1874 in Pittsburg (Pennsylvania, US). Her family moved to Oakland (California, US) when she was a child. In 1903 she moved to Paris (France), where she became a famous novelist, playwright, art collector and poet.
She was close friends with other artistic and creative minds, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Her life partner was Alice B. (Babette) Toklas (1877-1967), another American-born member of the Parisian avant-garde of the early twentieth century. It was Toklas who inspired her to write about her life in Paris in 1933. This book was published as “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.” This work made her into a cult-hero. Two famous quotes came from this book:
- Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose
- There is not there there
Stein never made an open secret of exactly what her sexuality was like. This was probably the most important reason for her to move to Paris.
As the Germans invaded Germany (and Paris) in 1940 she was investigated by the nazis. To keep safe, she decided to move to the part of France that wasn’t occupied – but collaborated with the Germans: the Vichy France (Régime de Vichy). Here she presented herself as an art collector. She got some protection from the Vichy regime.
It’s somewhat strange that Stein admired the ones in charge of Vichy France, Marshal Philipe Pétain and Bernard Fäy. Strange, because she grew up in a Jewish family in Pennsylvania. Her parents Daniel and Amelia Stein were very fortunate and made their wealth with real estate.
Stein died after the war was over on 27 July 1946 in a hospital in Neilly-sur-Seine, after an operation to cure stomach cancer. As her last words, she supposedly said to Tolkas: “What is the answer?” Her life partner said that there wasn’t an answer. Her last reply was: “Then there is no question!”
Did she say these last words or is this just another literary legend? Toklas only gave her opinion once, but never said anything more about these final moments of Gertrude Stein.
About the poem
It’s a different poem, to say the least. This poem consists of long sentences, but with a clear rhyming pattern. This house could have been any house in the French countryside. Or it could be that she was describing the house she grew up in.
The House Was Just Twinkling In The Moon Light
The house was just twinkling in the moon light,
And inside it twinkling with delight,
Is my baby bright.
Twinkling with delight in the house twinkling
with the moonlight,
Bless my baby bless my baby bright,
Bless my baby twinkling with delight,
In the house twinkling in the moon light,
Her hubby dear loves to cheer when he thinks
and he always thinks when he knows and he always
knows that his blessed baby wifey is all here and he
is all hers, and sticks to her like burrs, blessed baby