If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait Of Picasso
From 1906 on, Picasso was the great artist and the great friend in Stein's life. His portrait of her and hers of him joined his art to hers and hers to his as both were also joined in friendship. "Portraits and prayers," the phrase first used in "An Elucidation," speaks of the juncture of the visual and verbal, painting and writing, Picasso and Stein.
In the powerful rhythmic construction of this portrait, the repeated questions and incomplete sentences question completion and refuse to name what history teaches. In the Autobiography Stein says that she delighted that summer in the waves on the shore at Antibes, where the portrait was written, as was Geography. The waves are more than background. Inside the portrait they become Picasso's creative energy; the conquering armies of the leader, whether Napoleon or Picasso; his power over the empire of art, which might yet, like Napoleon's, crumble; and the fickle sexuality, misogyny, and flattery characteristic of Picasso. Would he like it if she told him all this? Would he like it if she told on him? Would he like what she knows about him? Such questions, with their tone of gossip and threat, flattery and secrecy, are also never answered but persistently and rhythmically repeated.
The manuscript shows an interesting textual discrepancy in the text, which is here restored to the handwritten original. In the section on "exact resemblance," a period before "To exact" in the manuscript makes the difference between an adjective and a verb: "Exact resemblance. To exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly and resembling. . . ." The verb "to exact" adds energy to the creative struggle. Stein explores all possible forms in which "exact" can be joined with "resemblance."
The geography of this portrait is internal, sexual, procreative, in its sucking, pushing, and heaving. It also becomes the actual geography of the coast of the Midithe waves, the tides, and the land that compose Geography.
From A Gertrude Stein Reader, Northwestern University Press, 1993. Holgraph version is not adopted, note variance:
Exact resemblance. To exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as a resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly a resemblance, exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.
sound file of poem (mp3, 3:42, recorded in NewYork, Winter 1934-35)
>>but see esp. PennSound's audio aligned text
complete set of Stein sound fles at PennSound
Brian Reed: close listening to this sound file
IF I TOLD HIM:
A COMPLETED PORTRAIT OF PICASSO
If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him.
Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it.
If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him.
Exactly as as kings.
Feeling full for it.
Exactitude as kings.
So to beseech you as full as for it.
Exactly or as kings.
Shutters shut and open so do queens. Shutters shut and shutters and so shutters shut and shutters and so and so shutters and so shutters shut and so shutters shut and shutters and so. And so shutters shut and so and also. And also and so and so and also.
Exact resemblance to exact resemblance the exact resemblance as exact as a resemblance, exactly as resembling, exactly resembling, exactly in resemblance exactly a resemblance, exactly and resemblance. For this is so. Because.
Now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all, now actively repeat at all.
Have hold and hear, actively repeat at all.
I judge judge.
As a resemblance to him.
Who comes first. Napoleon the first.
Who comes too coming coming too, who goes there, as they go they share, who shares all, all is as all as as yet or as yet.
Now to date now to date. Now and now and date and the date.
Who came first Napoleon at first. Who came first Napoleon the first. Who came first, Napoleon first.
Exactly do they do.
Exactly do they do too.
And first exactly.
Exactly do they do.
And first exactly and exactly.
And do they do.
At first exactly and First exactly and do they do.
The first exactly.
And do they do.
The first exactly.
At first exactly.
First as exactly.
At first as exactly.
As as presently.
He he he he and he and he and and he and he and he and and as and as he and as he and he. He is and as he is, and as he is and he is, he is and as he and he and as he is and he and he and and he and he.
Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable.
As proportions as presently.
Father and farther.
Was the king or room.
Farther and whether.
Was there was there was there what was there was there what was there was there there was there.
Whether and in there.
As even say so.
As a so.
They as denote.
Play fairly well.
As or as presently.
Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.
EPC Digial Library edition of this work is made available in conjunction with the PennSound audio file of the poem.This text is made available only for noncommercial and educational use. © 2005 Estate of Gertrude Stein. Used with the permission of the Estate through its Literary Executor, Mr. Stanford Gann, Jr. of Levin & Gann, P.A.